Western Acupuncture (dry needling)
What is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is a unique procedure intended to specifically target and restore muscle function, with an emphasis on improving tissue healing and restoring normal tissue function. This is important as continued activity with poor muscle function may lead to further tissue damage and increased pain. Dry Needling involves inserting a very thin needle without injection. “Dry needling” is another name for western medical acupuncture. In treatment, a needle is inserted into the skin and muscle directly at a myofascial trigger point (MTP). A trigger point is point in the muscle associated with a ‘knot’. This is an area that has become painful and can radiate pain in predictable patterns.
How does it work?
When combined with conventional treatment options, dry needling can be an influential method to accelerate pain reduction, healing and the restoration of normal tissue function. The exact mechanisms of dry needling are complex and not fully known. However, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the positive effect inserting a needle has on the electrical and chemical communications that take place in our nervous system. These include inhibiting the transmission of pain signals in our spinal cord and increasing the release of our own pain relieving chemicals within our brains. The pain relieving effect of dry needling is gaining strong support in mainstream Western medicine, with public hospital systems now directly funding its use.
Does it hurt?
A healthy muscle feels very little discomfort with insertion of this needle. However, if the muscle is sensitive and shortened or has active trigger points within it, the subject will feel a sensation like a muscle cramp (the “twitch” response). This is perfectly normal.
What is the difference between Dry Needling and Acupuncture?
Unlike acupuncture, the objectives and research behind the use of dry needling by physical therapists is not based on ancient theories or teachings of traditional Chinese medicine. The performance of modern dry needling by physical therapists is based on Western Neuroanatomy and modern scientific study of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Both Dry Needling and Acupuncture do, however, use a solid needle filament.