Dry needling – a new approach to releasing muscles
Dry needling is a wonderfully effective way to reduce pain levels – especially for pain that is caused by long term muscle spasms or tightness, or pain that hasn’t responded to other forms of hands-on treatment.
At The Headache and Pain Management Centre, we believe it’s not only the diagnosis that is important, but also selecting the right treatment for the right patient. Dry needling is yet another treatment tool that our clinicians offer to reduce your pain.
What is dry needling?
Dry needling is the insertion of a very thin needle to normalise the muscle tone, and therefore treat muscle pain. Dry needling can be applied to any muscles of the body, including muscles that are just below the skin, and also the muscles that are quite deep. This is really useful as it allows us to treat areas that can’t be reached from the surface with our hands. In essence, the needle is an extension of our fingers.
Depending on the individual, specific outcome that your clinician is trying to achieve, the needles can be left in for a period of time, or inserted, manipulated, then quickly removed (lasting only seconds).
This technique is called dry needling because there is no liquid or medicine being injected into the muscle, hence it is a “dry” technique as opposed to a “wet” technique (such as cortisone injection).
Is dry needling the same as acupuncture?
The only similarity between dry needling and acupuncture is that the same needles are used in each technique, however the ways in which the needles are applied are quite different. Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine, and involves using meridians of the body and particular known “acupuncture points”. It is very gentle and the needles are inserted into the skin only. Clinicians need to train in certified acupuncture courses, which are usually years long, in order to identify themselves as an “acupuncturist”.
Dry needling is based on a more physiological and evidence-based model, and can be practised by physiotherapists, doctors and also manual therapy professions. The clinician is usually trying to target trigger points. This means the needles are inserted deeper than acupuncture so that they go into the muscle (not just the skin) – usually into muscle groups that are supplied by a nerve that has been diagnosed as sensitised. Although this sounds painful, you should remember that the needles we use are only 0.3mm thick.
The aim of both dry needling and acupuncture is to normalise the muscle tone (i.e. make your muscles work properly again) and invoke a pain relieving response from your brain.
What happens to my body when I have dry needling done?
The treatment effects produced by dry needling match up perfectly with The Headache and Pain Management Centre’s treatment aims: that you must treat all sites in your body that may cause pain signals to generate, including your periphery, spinal cord or your brain.
When we insert the needle into a muscle, the blood flow and nutrient supply increases to the area around the muscle and adjacent nerves, allowing a healing process to occur. This is more effective than a simple massage for long term pain, as the effects of dry needling last for much longer. When you have a massage, the physical effects last only as long as the person is touching you, whereas with dry needling, this effect can last up to 72 hours.
The end result? Your brain has enough time to adapt to its new situation, creating greater freedom of movement, and more pain relief in the long term.
In addition, dry needling releases endorphins and allows other pain relieving chemicals in your body to flush around your system. It is like having your body’s own drug cabinet unlocked, allowing your muscles and joints to be less sensitive to movement, and more resilient to sudden changes.
What conditions can be helped by dry needling?
There are a huge variety of conditions that can be helped by dry needling, including:
- Low back pain
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Tennis elbow
- Sporting injuries
- Muscle strain rehabilitation ….and many, many more.
Find out how dry needling could benefit you
Before undertaking dry needling to treat your chronic pain condition, it is important to have an initial assessment with one of our team to establish if dry needling will be right for you.
At The Headache and Pain Management Centre our assessments are all at least an hour long, which allows our team to carefully consider all the treatment options, and allows us to begin your treatment on the first day.
To find out more about dry needling and how it could help your pain condition, book an appointment online or contact us on 1300 16 55 33.