Despite its scary-sounding name, “dry needling” is a safe, effective treatment for all types of musculoskeletal pain.
Did you know dry needling can loosen stiff muscles, ease joint pain, and improve oxygen circulation within the body?
Download our infographic to learn how dry needling works and the awesome benefits it offers.
For many people who are active, trigger points can become a concern, especially if injury or overtraining have occurred. These points, which develop in the connective tissue around muscles, have a number of causes but often lead to the same result: pain and limited mobility.
That's why effective treatment can be such a relief. By alleviating trigger points, you can get more oxygen flowing to the muscles, start the body healing itself, and recover quicker from exercise. Although massage can bring some benefits, you're more likely to see long-term results by combining dry needling and movement therapy.
Dry needling involves thin, tiny needles that are the same size as those used in acupuncture. A practitioner inserts a needle at a trigger point to release built-up lactic acid that's hindering the muscle. Once that occurs, oxygen can flow to the area and the body quickly begins to heal the irritation. Muscles that had been tight because of the trigger point often relax very quickly after even one treatment.
With movement therapy, the focus is on how you use your body to walk, run, reach, stretch, and do the other hundreds of movements that comprise everyday life. Our daily lives cause us to maintain prolonged postures or perform repetitive movements that lead to mechanical breakdown and development of trigger points. By training you to recognize and correct faulty movement patterns, a therapist can bring more variety into your routine and adjust any potential imbalances.
By bringing together the release of dry needling with the physical re-education of movement therapy, you can handle the trigger points you have now while preventing others from forming.
With that advantage, you're likely to see better athletic performance, including faster recovery timeframes, and fewer nagging and chronic issues. Alleviating trigger points isn't just about a quick fix, it's a recipe for being healthier overall because by eliminating pain and tightness, it can lead to better sleep, more energy, and even happier moods.
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Despite its scary-sounding name, “dry needling” is a safe, effective treatment for all types of musculoskeletal pain. Dry needling can loosen stiff muscles, ease joint pain, and improve oxygen circulation within the body. Learn why this new treatment could be the answer to your pain.
Although it might seem like those knots in your neck or back just appeared out of nowhere, most likely there's a specific cause for these issues.
Called trigger points, these problem spots occur in the connective tissue that's part of your musculature, and they can wreak havoc on athletic performance or even everyday activity.
Knowing the top causes can help to prevent them, or to keep minor trigger points from becoming a chronic irritation. Here are some common ways that these points get triggered:
Repetitive movement: Whether you always hit a golf ball the same way or you sit at your desk typing all day, the repetition of movement can cause tightness, leading to trigger points.
Poor posture: We all slump occasionally, but if you have less-than-ideal posture, it's often the same as repetitive movement. It creates constant pressure on certain parts of your body, particularly your shoulders, neck, and back.
Sleep problems: Many people wake up with a stiff neck or simply feel misaligned, and they claim to have "slept wrong." When this happens frequently, it can lead to trigger point development. Sometimes, it's a chicken-and-egg problem to determine which came first: poor sleep as a result of pain from trigger points, or trigger points as a result of tossing and turning all night.
Injury: When muscles become damaged or tense up without warning — as is the case in an accident — it causes stress to resonate through the body. That trauma and the ensuing tightness can lead to trigger points, either immediately or over time. For instance, getting in a car crash and having whiplash can create stress to the neck that might prompt trigger points to develop.
Referred pain: In some cases, a trigger point in one part of the body actually causes pain in another area. For example, if the muscle on the top of your shoulder has a trigger point, it can refer pain up the side of the neck, and create tightness that causes a headache.
When it comes to treatment, there's been ample success with combining physical therapy and movement assessment with dry needling. Not only can this address the trigger points you may have, but it can aid in preventing them so that you're on track when it comes to optimal health and performance.
As treatment options, dry needling and acupuncture have some aspects in common. Most notably, they both use small-gauge needles and are focused on alleviating physical issues that range from annoying to chronic.
But despite the seeming similarities, they're very different when it comes to why they're done and how they work. Here's a quick overview:
Dry needling: Due to injury, repetitive motion, or muscle overuse, people sometimes develop tight bands within a muscle, called trigger points. Once a practitioner locates a trigger point through an assessment, a thin needle is inserted to cause the point to release lactic acid that has built up. This often brings immediate relief in loosening stiff muscles, easing joint pain, and improving oxygen flow to the muscles so that the body can heal itself.
Acupuncture: A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is a way to balance the flow of energy within the body, called qi or chi. This energy is believed to flow through specific pathways in the body, and by inserting thin needles, a practitioner can correct any stagnation or improper flow. Many Western practitioners also view acupuncture as a way to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue and increase blood flow as a result.
Major differences: In addition to the fundamental difference in the basics, it's important to note that dry needling is used as part of a treatment plan that also incorporates physical therapy, movement analysis, and other interventions.
Acupuncture is often considered a lone treatment in and of itself. A practitioner may bring in complementary options like herbal supplements or cupping, but in general, acupuncture stands alone while dry needling is just one aspect of a multi-pronged plan.
Like any treatment, it is important to talk to your physical therapist to outline your goals and determine if dry needling would be a good option to add to your treatment plan.
Many people have experienced that moment when rubbing a sore neck or getting a massage — the discovery of a hypersensitive spot that feels like someone glued a marble under your skin. Ouch.
Most often, these are trigger points, and they can range from minor irritants to major pain sources. Here are some quick basics that can help:
What they are: Over every muscle is fascia, a sheet of connective tissue that's made primarily of collagen. This stabilizes muscles and also separates them. One common analogy is to imagine peeled orange wedges. The white, thready material keeps the juice inside and forms a connection with the other wedges. Similarly, the fascia maintains the integrity of the muscle while connecting to the bone.
When there's injury, overuse, or trauma to an area, a point can develop within the fascia that retains lactic acid and basically, it gets stuck there. When that happens, oxygen flow to the muscle starts to dwindle and that causes pain and stress on muscle fibers.
Why it matters: Although trigger points can be common, that doesn't mean they're harmless. Not only can the body compensate around the injury — putting other muscles at risk for developing trigger points — but the lack of oxygen flow to the affected muscle can lead to more extensive damage.
Some points are classified as "latent," which means they aren't causing problems yet, but may in the future. Others are "active," creating pain even when the muscle is at rest. Both types can create spreading or radiating pain, and can affect athletic performance and even hinder everyday tasks.
How they're treated: Treatment for trigger points can range from deep massage to dry needling.
When used as part of a larger treatment plan, dry needling in combination with physical therapy can offer long-lasting results after just a few sessions. The needling alleviates the trigger points, while the therapy corrects muscle imbalances that may have caused them in the first place.
Whether you compare them to marbles or oranges, trigger points are a pain. The sooner you can address them, the happier your muscles will be.
Dry needling sounds intimidating, but is nothing to be afraid of. Rather it is a powerful tool to combine with other forms of physical therapy treatments. Dry needling can help those who suffer from arthritis, tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis, back pain, shin splints, to name a few. Everyone can benefit from dry needling, but few are aware of what dry needling is and how it can be beneficial in their life.
What is dry needling?
Dry needling involves the insertion of a thin filament needle into trigger point or “knots”. A trigger point is a group of tight shortened bands of muscle tissue which often cause pain in various parts of the body. These trigger points can be caused by a variety of reasons, such as bad posture, repetitive stress and injury. When deactivating a trigger point or releasing the tension of a shortened muscle with the needle, it helps restore the muscle to normal function.
Is dry needling the same as acupuncture?
Dry needling and acupuncture use the same needles, but that is where their similarity ends. Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine which seeks to address the flow of energy in the body by activating meridian points within the body, whereas dry needling uses knowledge rooted in western neuroanatomy, and is more concerned with treating specific neuromuscular problems caused by trigger points.
What to expect from your first dry needling appointment?
The first question that comes to most people’s minds is, will it hurt? Generally, the insertion of the needle is painless. When the needle hits the trigger point, a “twitch response” may provoke a quick pain sensation similar to a muscle cramp, beyond that dry needling is generally pain free for most individuals.
Immediately after the treatment expect to feel sore for the first 24-48 hours. After a dry needling session it feels as if you are sore from an intense workout. Soreness does depend on the area treated as well as varies person to person.
What are the benefits of dry needling?
Some of the more common known benefits of dry needling are reduced pain, tightness and spasms, but also helps improves overall functional movement; by improving motion, flexibility, strength, and control of the muscle. Dry needling can also speed up recovery rate and increase blood circulation.
Combined with other physical therapy treatments dry needling can help a variety of people, from those who suffer from chronic pain to athletes looking to increase mobility, speed up recovery and reduce pain.
Remember, dry needling is nothing to be scared of and it can be a great tool to help improve your daily life.
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