So, needles are the hot new craze right now, and no we’re not talking about drugs, Botox or tattoos. We’re talking about acupuncture, also known as dry needle therapy or dry needling.
It is often the case that an injury will need to be treated with a number of different techniques. One of the lesser known, yet highly effective technique is call Dry Needling. While it should gruesome (and even when explained it sounds no better), if you ask anyone that has had the procedure applied to them correctly they will tell you it's not all that bad and can really be effective.
So what is it exactly? Dry needling is a procedure where sterile acupuncture needs are inserted into the skin and muscle directly at a myofacial trigger point. This is a discrete area in a muscle or its fascia where a hyperirritable knot or band develops. These knots or bands are usually painful to compress and can refer pain.
Dry needling works to deactivate the trigger point and relax the muscle. Inserting a needle into a trigger point can result in favourable biochemical changes which assist in reducing pain. A spasmed muscle has reduced blood flow resulting in less oxygen and nutrients. This in turn holds the muscle tight preventing muscle metabolites from leaving the muscle and causing continued spasm and pain. The muscle may respond to the needle with an ache or a twitch which are positive reactions
It is important to practice dry needling in combination with other physiotherapy interventions and a rehabilitation plan that covers exercises as appropriate will be chosen by your Physiotherapist and to remember that not all physiotherapists are qualified to carry out dry needling. Make sure to find someone who has proper training and is governed clinically.
Dry needling is suitable for all, although caution must be taken with those on anticoagulants, skin infections near the treatment area, obesity, pregnancy, lymphoedema, vascular disease, epilepsy or children. Those with more recent injuries or younger people tend to require less frequent treatment than those who have had the injury for a long period of time. For most 3-6 treatments can make a significant difference.
There can be an achy, tired feeling in the muscles for the day of the treatment and unless you are used to the needling, its better not to train or compete that day. The technique is sterile and not classed under acupuncture by National blood transfusion services and does not affect ability to donate blood. Dry needling is usually appropriate for any condition where muscle pain or tightness is an issue. This could include neck and back pain, tennis/golfers elbow, shoulder conditions or leg pain.