Dry needling is a procedure involving the insertion of a solid filament needle into the skin and fascia directly at a myofascial trigger point. This is an effective way to treat myofascial pain ( also known as muscle pain) and dysfunction. Myofascial pain refers to pain which comes from specific points in the muscle called myofascial trigger points. In simple terms it is muscle pain. Myofascial trigger points are tender nodules in a taut band of muscle which are generated by overuse, over-stretching or overloading of a muscle. There are 2 types of trigger points: Active: One that causes pain and symptoms the patient recognises. These will be reproduced with pressure on the trigger point. Latent: One that is only tender when pressure is put on it. The patient will not recognise this as their pain. Factors such as trauma, temperature changes and/or poor posture can contribute to the development of latent trigger points.
Dry needling is only used to treat muscle issues that appear to contribute directly to the patients pain and symptoms. There is no medicine in the needle hence, the word dry needle. Most people do not feel the insertion of the needle but then may feel a dull achy feeling. You may then feel a jump in the muscle called a local twitch response. The local twitch response will elicit a very brief but painful sensation. The exact mechanisms of dry needling are not known. We do know that inserting the needling into the trigger point cause favourable changes in the biochemical make-up of the trigger point (Shah et al 2008). Dry needling can be carried out as part of your normal physiotherapy session ie: 30-40 mins. You may experience some stiffness for 48 hours after treatment.
To get optimal results it is not advisable to exercise after treatment but your physiotherapist will advise you on appropriate stretches. Usually you will see an increase in flexibility of the muscle treated straight away. It can take up to two days to see an improvement with your pain. One may need a few sessions to get a full pain free result. We are trying to change the chemical make up of the muscle and break a pain cycle. Occasionally you may experience bruising or post treatment soreness. Rare side effects include nausea, dizziness or fatigue. Your physiotherapist will advise you of any particular risks associated with the area being treated. Not everyone can have dry needling. If you are pregnancy, have cardiac arrythmias, are on anti-coagulant drugs or allergic to nickle you would not be suitable for dry needling.