What’s this all about and why are you trying to stick needles in me?
Western dry needling; what it is and why we use it.
You may be familiar with Traditional Eastern Acupuncture, which involves age old practices of finding Meridians and channels and tapping in to flows of energy for various physical and mental ailments. Although some physios may also dabble in this use, our use of needles does not involve this approach. So we won’t be trying to fix your asthma or your skin rash.
The Western Dry Needling approach has taken the same needles and used them in quite a different way. We use the needles to stimulate tissues of the body to provoke a response and aid the healing process in not an entirely dissimilar way that we use hands on manual therapy.
Dry needling works on the premise of deactivating specific painful trigger points that are found in muscle or fascia. Trigger points can be active or latent and while many trigger points will settle spontaneously, some can persist and drive painful episodes.
Dry needling can often decrease pain in these trigger points but the mechanisms behind this response are complex and still not completely understood.
Dry needling can:
- improve range of motion
- reduce pain
- facilitate muscle activation
- increase blood flow
Depending on the area and condition being treated, needling is then followed with advice and exercise to reinforce the effects of the needling. For example in a case of hip pain, we may use needling to stimulate your hip flexors, then followed by some glute activation exercises in order to kickstart the rehab process to strengthen your hip. It’s often a useful adjunct to therapy but is never the whole answer to the problem and shouldn’t be seen as a quick fix.
While dry needling is relatively safe, there are precautions to be taken which your physio will always discuss with you. Common side effects include an ache in the area for 24-48hours post treatment, occasionally bruising and drowsiness following treatment. There are certain candidates and areas of the body that may not be suitable for dry needling.
Yvonne McKenny, Physiotherapist, Evoker.