Our clients often ask us “how does dry needling work?” and “what is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?”. Together, lets debunk some of the mystery behind dry needling and learn about how it might help you in your physiotherapy treatment.
What is dry needling?
Dry needling (named dry as no fluid is injected into the skin) is a modern treatment performed by skilled, trained professionals such as physiotherapists.
Physiotherapists insert a thin monofilament needle into the skin to target underlying trigger points. Dry needling works to alter and improve our body’s capacity to move comfortably. It reduces tension in the muscle by changing the length of muscle fibres. Dry needling can be used to decrease joint stiffness and increase joint movement
When dry needling is applied to a dysfunctional muscle or trigger point, it can decrease banding or tightness, increase blood flow, and reduce local and referred pain.
Dry needling vs acupuncture
It’s important to note dry needling is not the same as acupuncture. It uses similar tools, but that’s where the similarities end. Dry needling is performed by different practitioners with different training. Acupuncture is based on Eastern medicine, while dry needling is rooted in Western medicine and evaluation of pain patterns, posture, movement impairments, function and orthopaedic tests.
Dry needling treats muscle tissue, and its goal is to reduce pain, inactivate trigger points and restore function. It rarely is a standalone procedure. Rather, it often is part of a broader physical therapy approach incorporating other traditional manual interventions into treatment.
As this is dry needling and not Traditional Acupuncture, the treatment effect relies on different rationale. The difference is simply that Chinese Acupuncture is based on traditional medicine practices which use the body’s energy channels or meridians, which are linked to organs and bodily functions to guide treatment.
What does dry-needling feel like?
Perhaps not the best treatment if you have a needle phobia, however dry needling can be relatively painless, it just depends on each individual's circumstances. Dry needling can produce a "twitch" effect in the muscle which can be a strange sensation to experience or can feel sharp. We aren't going to lie and say that there is no discomfort at all; but typically, it is no more painful than if we were using our hands to release the muscle. The needle itself is extremely fine, so is nothing like other common needles we see in healthcare. Some people even find the process relaxing or barely feel anything! You may feel a little sore or have a small bruise after dry needling, but again, typically not much more than you would feel from manual therapy. The benefits of dry needling is that it is able to directly target the area so can provide more relief than what could be possible with manual therapy.
Is dry needling safe?
Yes! Dry needling is an extra qualification we can study as physiotherapists, and with our indepth understanding of anatomy we can ensure that this will be a safe practice for you. Single use sterile needles are used during the treatment to ensure minimal risk.
Still Interested? Ask us at your next visit whether dry needling is suitable for you!