As I begin to dry needle I am often asked what it is and how it differs from acupuncture.
Dry needling is a form of treatment that uses a thin, solid needle (much like an acupuncture needle) to pierce the skin and enter the muscle. Because the needle is solid there is no injection of fluid, hence the term “dry needling.” The initial tap of the needle into the skin is often not felt, but the subsequent insertion into the muscle belly can elicit a deep ache, a twitch, or a cramping sensation. In functional dry needling the goal is to enter into a trigger point within the muscle and elicit a twitch response. The twitch response results in a biochemical cascade which may affect the muscles activation, the pliability of the surrounding tissue, and your symptoms. In contrast, Acupuncture, a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine, inserts needles along meridian paths in an attempt to restore normal life flow of the life force. Although the same needles are used, the assessment, application, and overall goals of treatment are different.
Following the first treatment you will start to become accustomed to the twitch response and will often begin to welcome it. The result of the treatment is often worth the slight discomfort and ache. Positive results are sometimes seen immediately but can take up to 4 treatment sessions depending on your injury severity, duration of symptoms, and your overall health.
Dry needling is a safe and effective way to treat short and long term pain with very few side effects. I look forward to adding it to my tool box.