Pain is one of the most difficult conditions to diagnose accurately and the effectiveness of alternative treatments varies widely from patient to patient. That said, dry needling is a pain alleviation technique, which has shown promising results in assisting patients to overcome back pain, neck pain and pelvic pain from pregnancy.
Many patients also discover dry needling can lead to higher energy levels, undisturbed sleep patterns and an improved appetite together with an overall improved feeling of wellbeing.
What Is Dry Needling?
Dry needling, known also as intramuscular stimulation or (IMS) uses thin, solid needles similar to those used in acupuncture. The needles are inserted into the skin and tissue immediately below, targeting tight knots of muscle called myofascial trigger points, promoting increased circulation and speeding up the rate of repair of surrounding tissues.
The technique is not a replacement for traditional medical approaches such as physiotherapy or surgery. However, applied in combination with other treatment options, dry needling can be an effective path to accelerating a reduction in pain levels and in promoting healthy tissue function.
What Is A Myofascial Trigger Point?
A trigger point is defined as an area of over-exerted muscle. These areas are often referred to as a knot. Many patients find their pain is localised around a knot of muscle.
Dry Needling helps to release this knot. The needle insertions have a mild anaesthetic impact on the trigger point, promoting improved circulation and more rapid healing in some patients thus providing a useful approach to pain relief.
If in exploring alternative pain management techniques, your physiotherapist suggested dry needling here are 5 widely held pain relief benefits associated with dry needling:
- Improved Circulation
Tight or knotted muscles can result in pain that often transfers to other parts of the body. Dry needling targets these trigger points with the intention of releasing them via an ultra-thin acupuncture needle. Improved circulation is widely believed to be one of the benefits of treating knotted muscles.
- Loosen Tight or Knotted Muscles
Dry needling can be thought of as a reset button for recalcitrant muscles. Trained physiotherapists firstly identify knotted muscles which act as trigger points for pain before applying dry needling to assist in restoring the muscles to their normal length.
While the mechanism enabling dry needling to act on knotted muscles is not completely understood, it’s believed to alter the electrical activity within the knotted muscle, resulting in a twitch response. This effectively resets the problem muscle area back to its normal resting length.
- Low-Risk Treatment For Chronic Pain
Dry needling can treat a range of pain conditions, spanning acute to chronic. It is typically used in conjunction with a broader treatment strategy in managing headaches, back, neck and shoulder pain, tennis or golf elbow, plantar fasciitis, and sciatica conditions.
- Reduce Pain And Promote The Release Of Natural Neurotransmitters
In treating knots of muscle tissue, dry needling stimulates the body’s natural opiate peptides release mechanism for enkephalins, beta-endorphins and dynorphins. These naturally occurring neurotransmitters actively block the transmission of pain signals to receptors in the spinal cord and brain.
- Improved Movement And Flexibility
Patients receiving dry needling treatment usually experience an improvement in their degree of flexibility and range of motion. These positive improvements are thought to be due to dry needling’s effectiveness in releasing trigger points, thus increasing blood flow which helps to reduce pain levels.
Dry Needling’s Limitations
While dry needling can prove to be effective in relieving pain in some patients, it does not address the source of the pain itself in certain conditions. For example, if a patient has advanced osteoarthritis in their knee or hip they may be experiencing secondary muscular pain. This is due to the muscles attempting to compensate to avoid the movement that triggers pain.
Dry needling can be very helpful in relieving the pain symptoms but it will not reverse the osteoarthritic changes in the knee or hip that are the primary cause of the muscular pain.
Consult A Qualified Physiotherapist
It’s important to know that continuing activity with impeded muscle function can lead to a spike in pain levels and additional tissue damage.
To discuss what benefits our Dry Needling technique may bring to your condition call one of our physiotherapists Justin, Leo or Caroline today.
*Please note, content within this article is for educational purposes only and treatment and advice mentioned may not be suited for everyone. Please consult a team member at the Brisbane Spine Clinic or your General Practitioner for specific advice.