Dry Needling is a general term for a therapeutic treatment procedure that involves multiple advances of a filament needle into the muscle or connective tissue in the area of the body which produces pain and typically contains a ‘Trigger Point’. There is no injected solution or medicine, and typically the needle which is used is very thin. Most patients will not even feel the needle penetrate the skin, but once it has and is advanced into the muscle or painful region, the feeling of discomfort can vary drastically from patient to patient. Usually a healthy muscle feels very little discomfort with insertion of the needle; however, if the muscle is sensitive and shortened or has active trigger points within it, the subject may feel a sensation much like a muscle cramp—which is often referred to as a ‘twitch response’. The twitch response also has a biochemical characteristic to it which likely affects the reaction of the muscle, symptoms, and response of the tissue. The patient may only feel the cramping sensation locally or they may feel a referral of pain or similar symptoms for which they are seeking treatment. A reproduction of their pain can be a helpful diagnostic indicator of the cause of the patient’s symptoms. Patients soon learn to recognize and even welcome this sensation as it results in deactivating the trigger point, thereby reducing pain and restoring normal length and function of the involved muscle. Typically positive results are apparent within 2-4 treatment sessions but can vary depending on the cause and duration of the symptoms, overall health of the patient, and experience level of the practitioner.
Dry needling is an effective treatment for acute and chronic pain, rehabilitation from injury, and even pain and injury prevention, with very few side effects. This technique is unequaled in finding and eliminating neuromuscular dysfunction that leads to pain and functional deficits.
Dry Needling Article (pdf) from the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy
Dry needling allows the therapist to reach very specific parts of the muscle and deeper layers of the tissues that are not accessible by hand. Dry needling is appropriate for acute or chronic injuries; however, it is always an adjunct to other facets of Physical Therapy which include joint and soft tissue mobilization/manipulation and corrective exercise.
Dry needling is facilitated by our physical therapists that have completed the necessary coursework and training to practice dry needling treatment.
Acupuncture is founded on Traditional Chinese Medicine whereas dry needling is based on Western anatomical and physiological principles. Dry needling is not new, however; it has been around for approximately 40 years. It is founded by scientific concepts and it continues to evolve using the latest research.
Each patient describes the processes of being needled differently. Typically, patients report not feeling the needle actually penetrate the skin. To most, the treatment is not painful, but you will most likely feel a deep cramping of the muscle that the needle was inserted into along with some involuntary muscle jumps/twitches. This is called the local twitch response (LTR) and means that we are positively affecting the desired tissue.
If you have any questions, please call the UHC Physical Therapy Department at 706-542-8634. If you need medical attention, please schedule an appointment with your assigned clinic or, in an emergency, call 911.