Will dry needling help my condition?
As more people are exposed, and possibly referred, to it as a treatment for acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain I want to tell you about my experience with dry needling and how I incorporate it into treatment plans for a variety of conditions.
First, a little historical context:
Dry needling is used to target myofascial trigger points aka ‘trigger points.’ Dr. Janet Travell, an American medical doctor, was the first to propose the term ‘myofascial trigger point’ in 1942. She stated, “after an injury tissues heal, but muscles learn. They readily develop habits of guarding that outlast the injury.”
Dr. Travell’s research findings changed the understanding and treatment approach towards pain (the study of pain aka ‘pain science’ is still evolving to this day). She was able to develop a “pain referral” map of the body by pressing on various points in the body and asking the test subject where they felt pain.
In the pain referral image below, the “X” indicates the trigger point and the surrounding red region indicates the area of pain that someone might describe or point to during an examination. There are maps like this for all regions of the body.
How is this different from Acupuncture?
- Both acupuncture and dry needling involve the insertion of thin needles into the soft tissues of the body
- Dry needling can be considered a style of acupuncture, but acupuncture has many styles
- The biggest difference lies in the philosophy of the provider who is delivering the treatment
So what is actually happening?
Each needle produces a microscopic injury at the insertion site, and although it is slight, it is enough of a signal to let the body know it needs to respond. This jump-starts the natural healing and rebuilding processes that our body’s innately perform.
How I incorporate dry needling into a treatment plan:
I use dry needling as a catalyst to help you manage and overcome what’s ailing you. Dry needling is effective for short-term pain relief for a variety of conditions and body parts where pain and dysfunction are limiting. During this window of pain-relief is when the real magic happens – I will work with you and give you homework to do on your own to maximize the benefit of the treatment. When you feel better, you function better!
When I recommend dry needling, I also incorporate physical activity. Dry needling is passive. It is a tool for pain management and relief, but the goal should also be returning to healthy habits such as physical activity, sleep, and nutrition. I will recommend a plan that not only relieves your pain but supports better functioning.
Common conditions that I treat with dry needling include:
- Shoulder pain or lack of mobility
- Arthritic pain (joint pain)
- Tennis elbow
- Plantar fasciitis
- Calf strain
Dry needling and trigger point massage do have a pain relieving effect. What varies from person to person is the duration of that pain relief. For some, it lasts days, for others it lasts weeks. Pain is complex. Pain experience depends on many personal and environmental factors. (Check out my blog on pain here).
My certification to treat with dry needling:
I am a board certified Physical Therapist with an additional 40 hours of training in dry needling. I have more than 200 hours of dry needling practice.
Want to learn more? Check out these resources on dry needling: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458928/
— Dr. Gina