Dry needling—also known by its full name, myofascial trigger point dry needling—has become one of the staples of modern physical therapy, especially for athletes and chronic pain patients. While superficially similar to traditional Chinese acupuncture, dry needling is still shrouded in a fair deal of misunderstanding.
What Is Dry Needling Exactly?
Dry needling is a form of physical therapy based on stimulating trigger points inside each muscle through the use of thin filament needles. The aim is to cause a small “twitch”—akin to a miniature cramp—inside the muscle to release tension, diminish pain or improve mobility after an injury.
How Did Dry Needling Start?
Modern Western dry needling owes its basic premise to Chinese acupuncture, which is one of the world’s most ancient therapies. It was first described in “The Emperor’s Yellow Classic” over 2000 years ago. However, acupuncture didn’t reach European ears until the late Renaissance when word of it was carried by traders from the Dutch East India Trading Company.
As more western physicians began exploring the value of traditional Chinese medicine, they also used the acupuncture needle as a model for the first hypodermic needle—the precursor to the standard shots we now all use.
Over the following centuries, medicine advanced and became more knowledgeable about the inner workings of the human musculoskeletal system, and therapeutic dry needling evolved into its own form of therapy.
How Does It Differ From Acupuncture?
Traditional Chinese acupuncture is inextricably linked to ancient Chinese beliefs, particularly that “energy channels” link different parts of the body. Under this belief system, disease stems from imbalances between these channels or meridian points. The trigger points stimulated at an acupuncture session are based on such ancient practices, which is why this technique is often used as a treatment for very diverse ailments from depression to infertility.
Modern dry needling as used by physical therapists is based on contemporary knowledge of muscles, joints and bones, aiming to relieve pain-related conditions with an evidence-based approach.
Will I Benefit From Dry Needling?
As with any other course of therapy, it will depend on your ailment. Dry needling is considered one of the most effective forms of pain relief for patients with myofascial pain syndrome. It is also highly recommended for:
- Plantar fascitis
- Overuse injuries
- “Tennis elbow”
Patients with sciatica and fibromyalgia are also among the most likely to benefit from dry needling.
In addition to chronic pain patients, dry needling has also proven useful in acute trauma care; an intensive treatment of needling sessions may speed up the initial recovery process, allowing for a faster transition into active rehab.
Dr. Julie Scott is a fully certified licensed chiropractor with over 15 years’ experience. Her superb professionalism may be exactly what you need to relieve chronic pain and muscle problems. Call her today, book a consultation and take the first step on the road to wellness!