Many people have heard of the alternative medicine known as acupuncture, but this isn’t the only treatment being used by therapists today that involves needles. There is a physical therapy technique called dry needling that many people are trying to relieve pain without the use of pharmaceutical drugs, or at least in conjunction with reduced medication requirements.
Here’s what you need to know about dry needling, including the techniques used, its benefits, its risks, and how the techniques differ from traditional acupuncture.
What Is Dry Needling?
Dry needling, also known as trigger point dry needling or TDN, is a therapy used to release pain in myofascial trigger points. It is called “dry” because the technique does not use an injected solution to facilitate the therapy. Very thin needles are placed into the skin on a superficial or a deep level and for long or short periods of time, depending on what the goals of the treatment are. The needles may stay in place for just a few seconds or even 10 minutes or longer to achieve the desired effect.
Uses for Dry Needling
In modern medical practice, dry needling can be used on many different parts of the body, including the neck, back, knees, feet, and hips. It is a recommendation made when other treatments aren’t working well for plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, muscle strains, tennis elbow, chronic pain, and sciatica. It can be used to address range of motion issues, joint support, disk problems, migraine headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, temporomandibular joint disorders, and pelvic cramps.
Benefits of Dry Needling
The process of dry needling is often just one part of a patient’s comprehensive treatment plan. However, early research studies suggest that it may help control pain, reduce muscle tension, and help rehabilitate patients to a greater level of activity. Dry needling is considered to be a natural treatment that does not involve drugs and that is generally safe for most people.
Risks of Dry Needling
The mere action of inserting a needle into the skin can cause pain, so that is definitely a risk you must be willing to face in dry needling therapy. You may feel stiff and sore after receiving a dry needling treatment for hours or even days after you undergo therapy. Relieve these side effects by applying either ice or heat (ask your doctor which is better based upon your condition) and by performing recommended stretches to the affected area. There are also risks associated with dry needling for people who take blood thinners, who are recovering from surgery, for pregnant women, and anyone who has an inherent fear of needles.
Dry Needling Techniques
Doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and physical therapists perform dry needling on patients to address knotted areas of muscle that are sensitive and symptomatic. A solid filament needle is used, sometimes with an in-and-out technique called sparrow pecking or pistoning. A professional may also use a non-trigger-point technique that involves inserting needles around a point of pain rather than directly into the precise site of pain.
How Dry Needling Differs from Acupuncture
Dry needling is a modern practice rather than the ancient one of acupuncture that has been used for hundreds of years. While acupuncture is rooted in Eastern medicine, dry needling is based on Western research. Both practices have their own unique methodology but certainly have similarities too because they use similar types of sterile needles.
Have you tried dry needling for pain or range of motion issues? If so, let us know what you thought of the procedure and if it helped relieve your symptoms in the comment section below.