Dry Needling

Physiotherapy Dry Needling Treatment

Dry needling is a popular science -based medical intervention used in Physiotherapy. Small single use sterile needles are inserted into tight, dysfunctional tissues (trigger points) with the aim of reducing pain, spasm and improve function. Dry Needling has been shown to be a very effective treatment form when used in conjunction with other treatment techniques for conditions including:

  • lower back pain
  • headaches and shoulder pain
  • anterior knee pain
  • forearm pains

What is a trigger point?

Also referred to as “muscle knots,” they are small areas of tightly spasmed muscle causing pain and dysfunction.  A trigger point is capable of referring pain to other areas of the body either with or without pressure applied to them.  Whilst a trigger point can occur from acute muscular strain or injury, they typically occur after chronic overload.  Examples of this would be holding poor postures for sustained periods of time, poor load management with exercise and repetitive tasks.

What is the difference between Dry Needling and Acupuncture?

Whilst the two have commonalities they are very much different.  The theory behind Acupuncture is Eastern Medicine in nature and focuses on the treatment of conditions by restoring the flow of energy (Qi) through channels of the body (meridians).  Dry Needling  however is a research based medical treatment technique which focuses on the reduction of pain and restoration of movement by the release of trigger points.

How does Dry Needling Work?

Dry Needling is used in Physiotherapy as it helps to reduce pain and restore movement by releasing trigger points.  When a needle is inserted into a trigger point multiple physiological reactions occur.  Firstly blood pools around the needle and causes the muscle to relax with oxygen and nutrients being supplied in greater amounts to these surrounding tissues.  Secondly there is a stimulation of the nervous system.  The insertion of the needle into the trigger point may cause a twitch response which activates the release of endogenous opiods (your body’s natural pain killers) causing pain relief and decreased tension in the area.

What are side effects of Dry Needling?

For the majority of people Dry Needling is very safe.  Your physiotherapist will assess whether you are suitable for dry needling and will discuss any risks with you. Side effects are rare but they may occur.  Almost all side effects are temporary and will be completely resolved within 24-48 hours.  Some potential side effects include:

  • brusing
  • drowsiness
  • fainting
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • exacerbation of symptoms
  • pneumothorax (punctured lung): this is very rare and only is a rick whilst treating around the rib areas.  Great care is always taken to avoid serious conditions.

When should dry needling be used?

Every case and individual is different.  Ultimately dry needling can be implemented to be part of a successful treatment plan for a patient.  It should be stressed that addressing the cause of the issue should be the focus of treatment to achieve the patient’s goal,  as well as focusing on an active approach involving stretching tight tissues, strengthening weakened and tight tissues and surrounding areas and modifications to posture or exercise training load.

If you would like to know if Dry Needling can help you or would like to have Dry Needling please BOOK HERE

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s stance on Dry Needling in Physiotherapy