Several physiotherapists at Shiel Family Physio perform dry needling. We commonly get asked by our clients, “How does it work?” If you’re thinking of trying it or wondering what it involves, here’s the run down.
What is dry needling?
Dry needling involves the insertion of solid filament (acupuncture) needles into the skin and tissues. It is called ‘dry’ needling to differentiate from an injection, where a substance is actually injected into the area. It is commonly used by physiotherapists as well as other health professionals as part of their treatment.
How does it work?
Dry needling works on several levels. Tight or sore muscles contain ‘active’ trigger points (commonly referred to as ‘knots’). When the needle is inserted into the trigger point it has been shown to cause muscle relaxation, thus “de-activating” the trigger point. Dry needling also increases blood flow to the area and creates a ‘flushing out’ effect of the ‘bad’/inflammatory chemicals in the area.
Dry needling additionally has a pain relief effect. The needle activates the ‘pain gate’ theory effect as well as the descending inhibitory system resulting in reduced pain levels.
The pain gate theory of pain: describes how a non-painful input closes the "gates" to painful input, which prevents pain messages from traveling to the brain.
How is it different to acupuncture?
Traditional acupuncture is a practice performed in Chinese Medicine. This form of acupuncture approaches a person’s body as a whole and aims to move energy or ‘Qi’ around the body (along specific channels called meridians). In Chinese Medicine it is thought that injury, illness and disorders are a cause of imbalance in the body’s energy systems (Ying and Yang). Acupuncture is used to help correct this imbalance.
Are there any side effects?
The side effects of dry needling are quite minimal. There is the possibility of over stimulation to a painful area resulting in increased pain, as well as the possibility of bruising to the skin. If you’ve never tried dry needling before physios are often very conservative with the number of needles they use and for how long they stay in, we don’t want anyone to feel like a pin cushion!