What is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is an invasive procedure used to treat trigger points in which a solid filament needle is inserted into the skin and muscle directly at a myofascial trigger point. The aim is to elicit a twitching response from the muscle which then relaxes. This assists in reducing pain. There is also a local increase in blood flow to the area and this helps with healing.
Is it like acupuncture?
While there are many similarities between them, dry needling is not acupuncture. Acupuncture is based on restoring flow of energy (“chi”) along meridians in the body. Dry needling is based solely on Western medicine principles.
Using our knowledge of anatomy and physiology we directly target the trigger points within the symptomatic muscles.
How does it feel?
The needle is inserted quickly so you may not feel anything at all, or you might feel a slight pricking sensation. When the needle enters the Trigger Point, there should be a “twitch” or muscle contraction. It may just be a mild twitch, or it may feel like a “cramping” of the muscle. Some patients describe it as a deep ache or a stinging sensation. You may also feel a referred pain in a distant area of your body. This is a good response particularly if it’s a “familiar” pain for you. This means that we’ve needled an active trigger point which is causing some of your symptoms.
Some patients find that needling is less uncomfortable than some of the usual manual soft tissue techniques like pressure point treatment. Most discomfort is usually short lived and generally stops when the needle is removed. It’s normal to feel some post treatment soreness for a day or two after needling. This discomfort is usually similar to muscle aches that you might feel after exercise. The amount of discomfort experienced can depend on individual response to treatment and varies from person to person. You may find it useful to apply some heat to the area later in the day (heating pad or hot bath).
Is needling safe?
Since Dry needling is an invasive technique there are naturally some potential risks. However, with our extensive anatomical knowledge we avoid all major blood vessels and nerves and take every precaution to minimise these risks.
The most serious complication that may occur is a punctured lung (pneumothorax). This is extremely uncommon and very unlikely when correct techniques are used. This is only a concern when working in the muscles close to the lungs. If this happened, it may only require a chest x-ray and no further treatment. Symptoms of shortness of breath may last for several days or weeks. A more severe lung puncture may require hospitalization and reinflation of the lung.
A more common occurrence post treatment is some bleeding that could cause bruising. Some bruising is a common occurrence and should not be a concern unless you are taking a blood thinner (aspirin, warfarin).
As it is an invasive technique there is a minor risk of infection. All needles used in the clinic are high quality, disposable and sterile.
All physiotherapists at Imokilly Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic are trained to the highest standard in Dry needling and adhere to the Irish Guidelines.
Should you have any more queries, please call the clinic and ask to speak to a physiotherapist.