Dry needling is based on the Trigger Point theory of discrete irritable points in skeletal muscle and fascia which are usually painful, tender and can radiate pain. Essentially, Myofascial Trigger Points are tight spasming areas within muscles which cause a lot of pain or dysfunction.
When tissue is injured, whether by acute trauma or repetitive use, the body responds with inflammation to that area. In an effort to further protect itself, the damaged tissue contracts, and if left untreated, restriction in mobility can occur as scar tissue builds up around the muscles and tissues. Dry needling can not only eliminate neuromuscular pain but also restore mobility and functionality.
The Dry Needling technique utilises very thin, solid filament needles, which are inserted into the knotted muscle to elicit a twitch response, resulting in a relaxation of muscle contraction. In addition, the produced immune response to the insertion of the needle affects a systemic reduction in inflammation all over the body, not just locally. It is termed ‘dry’ as no material is injected into the tissue.
Due to the ability to reach deep affected areas, Dry Needling is highly effective in finding and eliminating neuromuscular dysfunction that leads to pain and functional deficits. Essentially, the use of a fine filament needle aims to “de-activate” trigger points in muscles.
What is the relationship between Dry Needling and Traditional Acupuncture?
Dry Needling is not Acupuncture. It is important to appreciate that acupuncture and dry needling are distinct and very different modalities. The dry needling of Myofascial Trigger Points is based on a through musculoskeletal evaluation with additional skilled palpatory evaluation of the symptomatic muscle.
The decision to needle is based on identifying a clear clinical relationship between the Myofascial Trigger Point and the patient’s pain experience. The reproduction of the patient’s pain is central to this.
Acupuncture on the other hand is based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), uses the philosophy and understanding of Meridians (energy pathways), and the balance of these Meridians to reinstate normal function.