Dry needling is a treatment modality used to refer to “non-injection” needling as opposed to “injection needling” which involves injecting saline, local anaesthetic or a corticosteroid into a tissue or specific anatomical structure with a hypodermic needle. Dry needling conversely involves using a solid, filament needle, similar to those used in acupuncture, in order to stimulate reactions in target tissues for therapeutic effect. This thin filament needle is inserted directly into the skin and muscle at predetermined myofascial trigger points. A myofascial trigger point is a painful concentration of muscle fibres. These concentrations of muscle fibres are often the result of neuromuscular dysfunction and occur particularly in areas that have endured musculoskeletal stress.
While the processes of dry needling and acupuncture are similar, the key difference is that acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, whereas dry needling is solely created around evidence based Western medicine principles. While acupuncture was traditionally one of the most popular techniques for treating musculoskeletal and sports injuries, dry needling is becoming increasingly common.
Dry needling effectively stimulates the nervous system into beginning a chain of bodily reactions that aid healing. By strategically inserting a dry needle into contracted or painful muscles, the nervous system’s response can be augmented by directing its focus towards a localised noxious stimulus. Neurochemicals in the body, namely endorphins and corticosteroids, are released and, as a response, the immune system sends white blood cells and oxygen-carrying red blood cells to the site. This is what is known as an inflammatory response and instigates the healing process.
One of the greatest benefits of dry needling is its ability to relax contracted muscles. When a dry needle is inserted into a tensed muscle, your body registers the sensation and elicits a local twitch response in the muscle. As a result, the muscle would work to reduce or halt its spasm via a feedback loop. Due to the fact that muscle tightness and spasms are often the main culprits of pain and dysfunction, by inhibiting or ceasing a spasm, dry needling can ultimately rectify your pain and discomfort. Dry needling is particularly beneficial when administered at the beginning of a physiotherapy program or in conjunction with manual therapy, as it successfully breaks the pain cycle by alleviating acute and chronic pain, thus allowing the body to be more receptive to other forms of physical rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, no. Additional training and certification would be required through an accredited dry needling course. If you believe you would benefit from dry needling, contact Physio Friend for an assessment and consultation with any of our fully-qualified physiotherapists.