How and why Dry Needling works
What exactly is dry needling? How is it different from Acupuncture? And what does ‘dry’ even mean?
Acupuncture was invented in China, with needles being used over 2,000 years ago – although there are records suggesting sharpened bones and stones were being used for the same purpose as long ago as 6000 BCE. Acupuncture operates along the meridiens of the body, the principle being to unblock the body and create balance. It is largely used to improve internal complaints – like digestion, insomnia, fertility and stress.
Dry Needling, you could say, is a cousin of Acupuncture, but has only really been in use since the 1990’s. Needles are inserted into the skin, but rather than using meridiens the practitioner inserts them in what we call trigger points.
Trigger points are hyperirritable points in the muscle, caused by over use or trauma, which creates adhesions within the muscle. These trigger points prevent the muscle from functioning properly, increasing stiffness and tenderness, decreasing range of motion, and sometimes causing ‘referred pain’ to radiate from the adhesion. All this causes a shortening or tightening of the muscles. Needle sites are generally either at the center of the tenderness, or near the nerve root of the spine.
Dry Needling causes a twitch in the muscle, creating a feeling a bit like a cramp. This stimulates the stretch receptor, which produces a relaxation response – thereby providing relief. Patients often find there is less post-treatment soreness associated with dry needling than with many other manual therapies. Dry needling is generally used in combination with conventional treatments such as soft tissue work to speed up pain reduction, improve healing and restore normal function.
The use of the word ‘dry’ differentiates between these needles – which are very fine, solid filaments, and the type of needle that is hollow, and used to inject a substance into the body.
Whether we call it Dry Needling, Acupuncture or Trigger Point Therapy – the results are the same. A reduction in pain and increase in function and healing. And that is surely a good thing!