Dry Needling directly helps promote healing:
Dry needling is an intervention utilized by several healthcare practitioners and is gaining popularity in western medicine. Dry Needling uses the same needles and insertion techniques as Acupuncture however it is based more on a western medicine philosophy with the focus on targeting specific anatomical structures. Whereas the use of acupuncture is based on Chinese medicine and the concept of Qi, or life force, and how to either increase or decrease its flow to various regions of the body. This is achieved with the use of needles and inserting them into very specific regions of the body that correlate with different organ systems and different meridian lines. So an acupuncturist may put a needle into Gallbladder Point 21 and a Physical Therapist, or other healthcare professional licensed in dry needling, may put a needle into the muscle belly of the upper trap and they would actually be in the same spot but for different philosophical reasons.
DRY NEEDLING RATIONALE:
The reason behind why dry needling is used is to target the muscle with a much deeper type of stimulation than can be achieved normally, say with your hands. The act of inserting a needle into the muscle is used to try to elicit a muscle twitch which is what helps a muscle to relax and decrease in resting muscle tone. This is regulated by your nervous system but can also be caused by build up of specific neurotransmitters in the muscle that are released when a muscle contracts. So if someone has a really tight muscle, or painful muscle, dry needling can be used to decrease the pain in the muscle, decrease muscle guarding, and improve overall function of the muscle.
The occasional discomfort associated with inserting the needle has also been shown to be another way to help improve the symptoms in the muscle through what is called descending inhibition from the brain. This will sometimes be further enhanced by twisting the needling or pulling it up and down to further stimulate this response. Additionally, electricity can be run through the needle to stimulate the muscle to twitch or jump that will allow for further relaxation of the muscle afterwards.
Since there is some microtrauma caused by inserting the needle the muscle will usually be sore for a day or two after the intervention but will then feel significantly better from there on, more so than it did prior to the intervention. So if an athlete has been having some increased muscle pain, tension, or delayed healing, then dry needling might be a good route.
So here is how a dry needling session usually works: one of our doctors of physical therapy will identify you may benefit from this treatment, they will then explain to you what regions they will work on. Your clinician will be looking for local trigger points in the muscle tissue. They will introduce needles into those affected tissue regions. Most of the time the patient doesn’t even feel the application of the needles. Next the therapist will begin exploring the needle around trying to get the muscle to elicit a local twitch response. These twitches can be sudden, but we seek this reaction on purpose. This indicates the target tissue needed some intervention. Is dry needling treatment worth it? Absolutely. Especially for active people and athletes seeking treatment and therapy for their active lifestyle & longevity.