Western medical acupuncture or dry needling is a technique that uses a very fine needle expertly inserted into an area in the body – muscle or connective tissue with the aim to improve function and decrease pain. These affects may be felt immediately or with a delayed onset. Sessions usually are recommended to be repeated for a period of time to see long lasting results and is most effective alongside a home exercise program and other treatment methods that your therapist recommend.
So how does it work?
Western medical acupuncture or dry needling is an adaptation of Acupuncture. The main focus is to treat myofascial trigger points, sometimes more commonly referred to as muscle “knots” (although muscles can’t get knots – they are tension or adhesion points within the muscle or the connection of the muscles and its surrounding fascia). Myofascial trigger points are a highly irritable area in the muscle formed though repetitive or loading actions. This is caused though work or hobbies with repetitive motions, traumatic injury or even stress induced tension.
Myofascial pain and trigger points are a very common source of pain and dysfunction. Have you ever felt that painful area after a long day working on the laptop or in the garden? Did you notice it slowly continue to aggravate as the days go on? Did you feel that tight spot in a muscle you want to dig at? Then you’ve likely felt myofascial pain caused by a trigger point. These trigger points form in muscle fibres due to a sustained contraction leading to a restriction in the blood flow and energy supply to the area. This contraction of the muscle fibre can lead to pain and even weakness of the affected area. This is a common sources of non-traumatic muscle pain caused by repetitive stress, postural strain, and traumatic injury to name a few. Symptoms of myofascial pain include a tender point, pain that worsens or persists, it’s deep aching, and can even affect ones quality of sleep. Myofascial pain has a high prevalence in the general public with 85% of people affected in their lifetime.
So how can dry needling help?
Your physiotherapist, osteopath or podiatrist will take into account your medical history, diagnose, and identify these painful areas in the muscle and fascia. A thin needle is then inserted into the myofascial trigger point to stimulate or irritate the tight muscle band. This aims to release these shortened, irritable muscle fibres and desensitise the painful area, increasing your range of motion and decreasing symptoms. When the needle is inserted and stimulated to activate the myofascial trigger point it can calm the pain associated with these muscle “knots”. This has been used widely as one of the fastest methods for decreasing the symptoms of myofascial pain and when teamed up with manual therapy and a home exercise program aimed at targeting the underlining cause of this myofascial pain one can experience long lasting treatment results.
While Dry needing is a safe method to increase functionality and decrease pain, like any invasive treatment techniques it can come with some risks. Most people find acupuncture to be less painful than a firm deep tissue massage though everyone’s pain threshold is different and this is something that will be taken into account when discussing acupuncture as a treatment method for you.
Contact your therapist or reception at Wandsworth Physiotherapy and Osteopathy if dry needing sounds like something you would like to try or if you have any questions concerning it as a treatment for you.
By Christina Bendandi.
Desai MJ, Saini V, Saini S. Myofascial pain syndrome: a treatment review. Pain Ther. 2013;2(1):21-36. doi:10.1007/s40122-013-0006-y
Fleckenstein, J., Zaps, D., Rüger, L.J. et al. Discrepancy between prevalence and perceived effectiveness of treatment methods in myofascial pain syndrome: Results of a cross-sectional, nationwide survey. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 11, 32 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2474-11-32
(Travell and Simons 1999).. Shah JP, Gilliams EA (2008). “Uncovering the biochemical milieu of myofascial trigger points using in vivo microdialysis: an application of muscle pain concepts to myofascial pain syndrome”. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 12 (4): 371–84. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2008.06.006. PMID 19083696.