Dry needling, sometimes called trigger point dry needling or intramuscular manual therapy is a technique physical therapists use (where allowed by state law) for the treatment of pain and movement impairments, through the use of a fine, filament needle. The needle allows a physical therapist to target tissues that are not manually palpable. Dry needling contrasts with the use of a hollow hypodermic needle to inject substances such as saline solution, or corticosteroids to the same point. Use of a solid “dry” needle has been found to be as effective as injection of substances for relieving pain in muscles and connective tissue. Specialists who perform dry needling physical therapy supplement that knowledge by obtaining specific postgraduate education and training. Please note, acupuncture and dry needling techniques may be similar, but their rationale and use in treatment are entirely different.
How does dry needling work?
Dry needling is said to relieve pain via mechanical and biochemical effects from trigger points when local twitch responses, or spinal cord reflexes, are elicited. Because the needles are so thin, the patient often does not even feel the needle go into the skin, but will quickly feel the relief of the muscle relaxing. Clinical results are achieved by releasing a shortened muscle, removing a source of irritation, decreasing spontaneous electrical activity (SEA) and promoting healing. It is typically one technique that’s part of a larger treatment plan, but some patients report a change of signs or symptoms during the first visit. Some patients do report being sore after the procedure. Typically, the soreness lasts between a few hours and two days.
What type of problems can dry needling treat?
- Muscle tightness
- Sports injuries
- Neck and back pain
- Chronic pain syndrome
- Headaches/migraines related to tension and neuromuscular pain within the cervical spine
- Pain-related symptoms that have not resolved through traditional therapy treatments related to tension and neuromuscular pain within the cervical spine
- Pain-related symptoms that have not resolved through traditional treatment methods Is the procedure painful?
Dry Needling practice varies by state’s physical therapy practice act. Please call to verify your Phoenix clinic can provide the service.
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Alyssa Murphy , PT, DPT
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