Dry Needling is a fairly new pain management therapy that is gaining traction in the orthopedic medicine world. Pain treatment is a real challenge for Western Medicine. The result is an opioid epidemic in this country. Acupuncture has an advantage here. It treats pain successfully, without addictive medications or surgery. Now, physical therapy is starting to use acupuncture needles to treat pain from knots in muscles, and has coined the term “Dry Needing”. In California, only acupuncturists can use these needles, but it doesn’t matter what you call it. Breaking up persistant knots with needles is very effective.
What is a Dry Needle?
It is called Dry Needling as opposed to wet needling, where a substance is injected into the tissues. In some states physical therapists do this therapy. Here in California only a Licensed Acupuncturist can use the needles and perform Dry Needle therapy. As an orthopedic acupuncturist, I’ve been trained in this modality. I see very good results with patients who can’t seem to get lasting relief otherwise.
Dry Needling and Trigger Points
Dry Needling addresses myofascial trigger point pain, or what is commonly called “knots”. The concept of trigger points was discovered by Dr. Janet Travell in the 1940s (she later went on to be Kennedy’s White House physician). She defined a trigger point as “a hyperirritable spot in skeletal muscle that is associated with a hypersensitive palpable nodule in a taut band.”
What Does Dry Needling Feel Like?
Practitioners insert acupuncture needles into irritable and sensitive knots in the muscle tissue. Often an immediate local twitch response is elicited. This can feel like a little cramp. It is actually a release of the trigger point, and the muscle tissue relaxes while blood and energy circulation is restored. This release is also be called “breaking up a knot”, and is very effective for pain relief.
After a dry needling session the area treated is sore, like after an intense workout. This soreness usually lasts about 12 to 48 hours. When it subsides, there is a very obvious relaxation of the muscle tissues, and pain levels are decreased.
How Long Before I feel Better?
Everybody responds differently. Sometimes after just one treatment there is a dramatic reduction of pain. Usually I like to see a person for 4-6 sessions to treat trigger points. Then perhaps once every few months for a tune-up.