What is Dry Needling (DN)? DN is a invasive procedure in which an accupuncture needle is inserted into a specific target soft tissue to improve or restore function and/or control pain. DN is based on Western Medicine. Dr. Travell first described Myofascial Trigger Point (MTP) injections for myofascial pain in 1942. In 1979, Dr. Lewitt spoke of the "needle effect", the effective use of the dry needle as opposed to the wet needle when using injection techniques, hence the term, DN was developed. Recent studies have confirmed the Myofascial Trigger Point Dry Needling (MTPDN) is just as effective in providing pain relief compared to injecting a substance (procaine, lidocaine, serotonin antagonists etc) into the muscle.
So why does Dry Needling work?
First there must be a cause of the pain. Pain which lingers or severe pain sends signals to the brain via the spinal cord. These signals may return through the Sympathetic Ganglion and activate Primany Afferent Nocioceptors (H) which will feedback to the spinal cordcausing the pain to continue instead of disappating. This is called the painful Reflex Arc.
The onset of a painful reflex arc can lead to the development of muscle spasm which can lead to the onset of trigger points and the associated musclespasm can last for weeks, months or even years.
The introduction of a physical stimulus in the form of an acupuncture needle has the effect of breaking the reflex arc and relaxing the muscle spasm / trigger point and thus resulting in a healing response.
Is dry needling the same as Accupuncture?
No! DN and Acupuncture are not the same but do have similarities. The same needle types are used and the insertion of the needle will cause similar responses but essentially acupuncture follows the traditional chinese medicine theories of energy fields and flows whereas DN follows a more western philosophy of treating myofascial pain and dysfunction. This being so the choice of needle site placement and method of needling will differ.
Does Dry Needling hurt?
Pain is subjective but the sensation when the needle is inserted is often described as a tingling or dull ache or can elicit the twitch /spasm response which is not painful but can sometimes be uncomfortable. With Dry Needling, thin filament needles are used compared to the hollow needles which are used when giving an injection. Patients can also describe aheaviness in the limbs or a pleasant feeling or a feeling of relaxation during the treatment.