What is Medical Acupuncture (Dry Needling)?
Medical Acupuncture, or Dry Needling (DN) is a safe and effective therapy in the treatment of muscular pain, tension and spasm that is commonly associated with conditions like Arthritis, nerve irritation, muscles strains/tears, ligament sprains and herniated discs. It is commonly referred to as “dry” needling because the needle are solid and are not used to inject fluid substances into the body. In DN, the needle itself, and the reaction to the needle by the body, are what produces the desired treatment effects or outcomes.
When an injury occurs, either from trauma or repetitive use, the damaged tissue naturally produces inflammation to begin the body’s healing process. At the same time, the local muscle tissue will often go into a protective state of contracture (muscle spasm) to guard against further damage to the injured tissue and to prevent use of the area while healing occurs. These processes act to inhibit the microcirculation to the local tissues which acts to decrease both the blood flow to the area (to aid the healing process) and the clearance of waste products produced by the inflammation. As a result, the injury site experiences a decrease in oxygen (hypoxia), causing the body to produce fibroblasts – the cells responsible for fibrosis or scar tissue. An increase in scar tissue can impede proper muscle function and lead to compression or irriation of nerves, and may ultimately lead to biomechanical dysfunction.
Medical Acupucture, or DN, uses very small, fine solid filament needles inserted into carefully selected points within the painful, dysfunctional muscle tissue. The needles, when inserted into the skin/muscle, will cause a small, controlled inflammatory response by the body’s immune system, stimulating a decrease in muscle contraction, reduced chemical irritation, a decrease in pain, and improved flexibility.
What is the difference between Traditional Acupuncture and Medical Acupuncture/Dry Needling?
Dry Needling uses the insertion of needles into specific areas or soft tissues in order to elicit a desired response (muscle relaxation, increased blood flow, decreased pain response, etc.) based on western medical research.
Traditional Acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TMC) theory of regulation of the flow of energy through channels or “meridians” in the body that are associated with vital organs. Interestingly, some research has shown that upwards of 95% of TMC points coincide with well-established trigger points in various muscles.
The approaches are similar in that a trained practitioner inserts sterile, disposable needles into the body in order to produce a desired result.
Is Medical Acupuncture/Dry Needling painful?
One may or may not feel the insertion of a particular needle during DN. Areas that have a higher concentration of nerve endings such as the face, hands and feet, tend to be slightly more sensitive that fleshier areas such as the back, gluteal area or shoulders. The gentle manipulation of the needle will often produce a “twitch response” in the muscle, which can be felt as a deep pressure or ache. This reflex helps to stimulate the body’s processes to decrease muscle contraction, reduce chemical irritation, improve flexibility and decrease pain.
What can I expect during and after a treatment?
Treatments last about 30 minutes in most cases and patients are typically quite comfortable while the needles are inserted. Expected outcomes from the first treatment include: decreased pain, increased range of motion (ROM) and a decrease in the initial signs and symptoms. Research suggests that DN may stimulate nerve fibres for up to 72 hours post treatment and that these nerve fibres are responsible for pain suppression.
Some patients report soreness in the local musculature for several hours to 2 days (rarely) after treatment. This may be alleviated with the application of heat or ice and gentle stretching. Bruising/and or very minor bleeding may occur in certain instances as well.
What can I do to prepare for a Medical Acupuncture/Dry Needling treatment?
Come to your appointment dressed in loose, comfortable clothing if possible. If you are unable to wear comfortable clothing to the clinic you will provide you with a gown. Eating a small meal or light snack several hours prior to treatment is advisable in order to avoid lightheadedness.
What types of conditions can benefit from Dry Needling?
– mechanical neck/back pain
– tension headaches
– shoulder pain
– tennis and golfer’s elbow
– carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
– spinal disc hernations
– ankle sprains
– hip and gluteal pain
– runner’s and jumper’s knee, patella-femoral syndrome (PFS)
– achilles injury
– sports and athletic injuries
– chronic pain
– postural pain and repetitive stress injuries
– facial pain and jaw pain (temporal-mandibular joint, or TMJ pain)