What is dry needling? Is it the same as acupuncture? Does dry needling hurt? You’re going to stick the needle where?!? Not many people are familiar with dry needling and if you are someone that has heard of this powerful and effective therapeutic technique, you probably have asked similar, if not identical, questions to the above list.
What is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is not acupuncture. Acupuncture is not dry needling. Both interventions utilize filiform needles to penetrate the skin and address the intended tissues indicated by the respective procedure. This is where the similarities end.
Dry Needling is an extremely effective musculoskeletal reset technique that taps into the body’s neuromuscular system and facilitates the restoration of homeostasis within the muscles addressed during the treatment session. Injury, common posturing, and repetitive tasks all can contribute to hyper (over) or hypo (under) activity within our musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems. This deviation from homeostasis frequently contributes to pain and dysfunction.
Utilizing dry needling to tap into the nervous system usually produces rapid improvements and has shown to be effective in treating everything from acute muscle strains and pains to reducing the debilitating effects of chronic pain. Further evidence has shown a reduced need for opioid prescription when dry needling is included in the treatment plan for patients with chronic pain. Through avoiding opioid use dry needling could, quite frankly, be saving lives.
What to Expect
After assessing your status and confirming the affected musculature, a trained clinician will utilize a “clean” technique to perform the dry needling process. A “clean” technique includes cleaning the treatment area with alcohol, wearing gloves which the clinician cleans with alcohol, and the insertion of sterile needles. Draping for modesty and respect for the individual receiving the treatment is also expected.
Once the area has been prepped the clinician will then insert the needle(s) into the indicated musculature. Most of the time all a patient will feel is a slight pressure or prick as the needle is inserted and likely a quick muscle twitch as the needle advances into the involved tissue. Additionally, the use of electrical stimulation to the inserted needles is often part of the treatment creating an involuntary contraction. The contraction may feel a bit odd at first; however, the electrical stimulation will help to reduce post needling soreness and further contribute to restoring the neuromuscular connection.
After the needles have been removed your treatment will progress to a more active intervention. The shift in treatment is intended to improve the carryover of positive changes obtained via dry needling. You will likely have some muscle soreness similar to a workout ranging from a couple of hours to the remainder of the day. Most frequently the soreness is gone by the next morning and the improvements facilitated during treatment are fully recognized.
Other less common post treatment events include: bleeding at needle insertion site (similar to a finger prick), ecchymosis (aka. bruising) at the insertion site, and on extremely rare occasions, infections and pneumothorax have been observed. These side effects are extremely low (less than .01%) especially when your treating therapist is certified through proper professional training.
Application of dry needling by a certified skilled musculoskeletal professional is a safe and powerful component of a comprehensive treatment plan. Reestablishing neuromuscular homeostasis and the correlation to the reduction of the use of opioids for pain management are just two of the benefits seen with the use of this powerful treatment intervention.
If you have additional questions, or feel like dry needling could help reduce your pains and problems, please contact Compcare Physical Therapy. Start thriving, not just surviving, at any one of our convenient locations: Eagan, Cottage Grove, or Rochester.