Your Questions Answered…
Dry needling is a technique that is fast gaining appreciation in the Western world. Throughout Australia, Myotherapists are trained in the use of acupuncture needles to assist with their client’s pain relief and soft tissue function.
Dry needling (DN) is a broad term used to differentiate “non-injection” needling and “injection needling” which usually involves the injection of an agent.
The procedure of DN is inserting a fine filament needle into soft tissue which is intended to specifically target and restore muscle function.
Whilst the actual needles used are the same, dry needling is based on Western anatomical and neurophysiological (science based) principles and are not to be confused with the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) technique of acupuncture.
The location of where the needle is placed in dry needling is chosen by myofascial (muscle) trigger point position (DN) versus acupoints along mapped out meridian lines (Acupuncture) derived from ancient Chinese philosophy and culture. DN aims to release muscle fibres, restoring function, whilst Acupuncture is intended to unblock energy meridians and help create balance in the body.
Interestingly, a little over 70% of the time, these points overlap. As reported by R Melzack, Researcher in science of pain.
Research is ongoing on what physiologically takes place in the body once a steel needle is inserted. However, there is growing scientific evidence supporting the positive effect inserting a needle has on the electrical and chemical pathways in our nervous system.
Inhibiting the transmission of pain signals in our spinal cord
Increasing the release of our own pain relieving chemicals within our brains.
Put simply, one theory of dry needling is once the needle is inserted into a muscle trigger point (or ‘knot’), it causes a localised chemical reaction, which leads to the contracted fibres releasing from one another.
Due to its fine structure, the needle is often not felt. There can be a ‘local twitch response’ or sudden slight contraction of the muscle which may produce a very brief pain response similar to a cramp.
During treatment, patients commonly experience heaviness in the limbs or a feeling or relaxation.
Following this technique some muscle soreness may be felt up to 24-48 hrs as it can after a deep tissue massage.
“The moment you change your perception, is the moment you rewrite the chemistry in your body.”
~ Dr Bruce Lipton
Whilst being trained in dry needling, I am fortunate enough to have been exposed to the techniques and ancient philosophy of TCM acupuncture both at university and spending time in China over the past two years. The practise of acupuncture in Eastern medicine has been mainstream in hospitals and clinics across China for over 2500 years, however western medicine continues to chase a scientific explanation to clarify the ‘how’.
Whether the effects of an acupuncture needle are explained by Qi (energy) flow being restored or a series of chemical reactions to relieve pain, the fact is, when a needle is inserted into an active trigger point within the muscle it causes the muscle to relax. This can be seen with an electromyogram (EMG).
If you, like me, believe and have experienced the positive effects acupuncture needles can have, the benefits within your body are positively great.
Note: Registered Myotherapists are skilled in the technique of myofascial dry needling, which is used in conjunction with other modalities during a treatment, to stimulate blood flow to areas with poor circulation, tension, stiffness and pain.