Dry Needling

In recent times, Dry needling has become a treatment technique that many Physiotherapists and Remedial Massage Therapists commonly use to treat myofascial trigger point pain. There are mainly two types of Dry Needling, superficial dry needling (SDN) and deep dry needling (DDN). SDN involves the insertion of a needle into the skin immediately overlaying a myofascial trigger point (depth: 4-10mm) and DDN has the same objective of deactivation of trigger points but a deeper insertion (depth: 10-45mm varies according to the anatomical site) of the needle into the trigger point region.

Dry needling is often mistaken as the same treatment technique as acupuncture due to the utilisation of the same type of needle, but it’s important to keep in mind that they are different modalities. The main difference between the two techniques is that dry needling is based on Western anatomical and neurophysiological principles whereas acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Modern scientific research supports the positive outcomes of Dry Needling, as it inhibits the transmission of pain signals in our spinal cord and increases the release of our own pain relieving chemicals (endogenous opioids) within our brain.

The effects of Dry Needling:

  • Pain relief
  • Improved muscle length (active and passive range of motion) by reducing muscle tone/spasm
  • Improved motor recruitment pattern
  • Improved sleep and relaxation
  • Improved blood circulation

After the first treatment, the response usually lasts 2-3 days, but can last for weeks and months depending on the individual. In acute/subacute pain, treatment can be repeated 2-3 times per week. Chronic pain may only require 3-4 weekly treatments as deemed necessary by the treating physiotherapist.

Dry needling is an effective treatment tool for treating muscular pain and myofascial dysfunction, but it is essential to remember it is not a cure for all musculoskeletal disorders. Although dry needling may be beneficial for pain management, patients are recommended to engage in active management (corrective exercises, re-training and mechanotherapy) for long-term pain management and future injury prevention to achieve optimal outcome and avoid therapy dependency.

Pro Physio SA, Dong Lee, Physiotherapist

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