The response I most often get when I discuss the option of dry needling with a client is “I hate needles!”.

Firstly, who actually LIKES needles?? And secondly, some hesitation is completely understandable, especially if you have never had it done before!

What is dry needling?

Dry needling involves the insertion of acupuncture needles (the width of a hair) into soft tissue for the purpose of relieving pain or improving muscle function.

It is called dry needling to distinguish it from wet needling, which involves the injection of an agent (like local anaesthetic or saline).

Is it the same as acupuncture?

No. Whilst the needles used in acupuncture and dry needling are the same, the practice is quite different.

Dry needling is based on principles of Western medicine (like neurophysiology and anatomy) and is most commonly used to treat sports and musculoskeletal problems. It normally involves the insertion of needles into trigger points to ‘release’ the point and reduce any associated pain and dysfunction.

Acupuncture on the other hand refers to needling that is used in an Eastern paradigm. For example, it is a major component of traditional Chinese medicine and involves the insertion of needles into meridian points to affect the flow of ‘Qi’ (energy) in the body.

Acupuncture can be used to treat similar conditions to dry needling (pain/dysfunction), but it is also used to treat a whole range of other physical and psychological conditions as well, which is why I often collaborate with an Acupuncturist to give my clients the best results.

What are trigger points?

Trigger points are palpable ‘knots’ or tight bands in muscle that are very tender to touch and will often refer pain to other areas. Not only can they cause pain, but also dysfunction in the muscle (eg. tightness or weakness). We don’t really know why some people get more trigger points than others, but muscle overload, trauma, static postures and chronic injury/pain are often contributing factors.

Does dry needling hurt?

To be completely honest, it can be uncomfortable, but only when you’re not used to it! And it’s not the sort of ‘discomfort’ you might expect when the word needle is being thrown around…

Many people are afraid of a ‘needle piercing the skin’ sensation, however this is rarely felt because of the fine width of the needle.

The aim of dry needling is to elicit a ‘twitch response’ from the trigger point, because it is usually followed by a reflexive relaxation in the muscle (which is the whole point). The twitch response can feel like a deep throb or cramp and can sometimes cause discomfort in the referral pattern of the trigger point, however this only lasts for a few seconds and most people welcome the sensation because it feels like something is finally hitting the spot!

How long does it last?

Releasing a knot in a muscle sounds quite magical and like it might be the answer to all of your problems…but it is really just a very useful ‘reset’ button. The same factors that contributed to the development of the trigger point in the first place will continue to cause problems, unless they are addressed. Dry needling is a fantastic tool but in our opinion it works best when used in conjunction with other techniques and only after a thorough physiotherapy assessment has been performed to identify possible causes.

We always have acupuncture needles in stock and can discuss with you the option of incorporating dry needling into your treatments if we think it will be of benefit!

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