Dry Needling

What is Trigger Point Dry Needling?

Trigger point dry needling, trigger point needling, dry needling or traditional dry needling are all terms used to describe a similar practice in the use of needles to release soft tissues and hopefully reduce pain in the body. 

For practitioners of manual medicine this needle therapy is one of our most effective and powerful modalities or tools that we use. In its modern form this practice is largely based on the pioneering work of Doctors Travell and Simons, which was then extended and focused to its current, common, worldwide use By Doctor Chit Chan Gunn. 

The practice involves the use of solid filiform needles or ‘acupuncture type’ needles to improve the function of connective tissues, including skeletal muscle, to reduce pain and help return normal fluid dynamics to an area of the body that might be affected by strain, trauma, overuse or other disease processes.

After palpating, searching for and identifying ‘trigger points’, filiform needles are inserted into familiar soft tissue points to create a false reflex arc and subsequent muscle twitch or fasciculation. The involuntary muscle movement that is stimulated by the needle insertion usually leads to a subsequent release of muscle tension and reduced pain in the affected area, as nociceptive fibres are deactivated. The insertion of the needle may be for only a couple of seconds before being removed. Once the twitch is garnered, the patient may feel a pulling or pinching sensation and his may, for example, be at the end or bony attachment of a muscle some way away from the needle insertion point. 

After the use of this needle treatment the patient may feel some or a little pain for a few hours to a day or so, before feeling better. That length of time may be determined by the amount of time the tissue being released has been ‘stuck’ for and also how profound the release was. 

What is in a Trigger Point?

A trigger point is a physical and normally palpable area within negatively adapted soft tissues. At the said point there may be altered or unusual blood flow, lymphatic drainage, muscle tension away from the ‘normal’ or desired stasis of the tissue in question. Some People may feel that it is like a ‘knot’ in a muscle for example.

When palpating the area in question there may be pain at that point as well as at another possibly distant and distinct point, maybe even where the patient is complaining of pain during a case history, but not where the trigger point is. This is often the case with cervicogenic headaches.

How do you relieve Trigger Points?

Trigger point therapy, with the aim of reducing painful points or dysfunction within the soft tissues of a body, is the process by which a practitioner may try to relieve trigger points. Trigger point therapy may take the form of dry needling, massage, inhibition or other modalities aimed at releasing soft tissue tension. 

A patient by themselves may use devices like foam rollers, inhibition balls or techniques like stretching, pilates or yoga to attempt to relieve trigger points.


Does Dry Needling work for Trigger Points?

Yes, it can. If carried out after a competent case history taking and proper diagnostic physical examination, by a practitioner who is well trained in the use of dry needling, trigger point dry needling or traditional dry needling to relieve pain and improve function of the body.

Does Trigger Point Dry Needling hurt?

When trigger point dry needling is carried out properly it can still cause some pain, usually not much, usually just a pinching sensation. 

After the needling there can be altered sensation through the tissues that have been needled. This can range from a ‘heaviness’ to an aching, soreness or moderate pain. As previously mentioned, and based on one of our practitioners’ experience of carrying out thousands of needling sessions, that level often appears to relate to the length of time the tissue has been in dysfunction and how profound the release of the tissues was when this modality was applied.

Why is it called Dry Needling?

The name dry needling derives from experiments into the effectiveness of various needle utilising treatments for the release or relief of trigger points.

When these experiments were carried out, Doctors/scientists used hypodermic needles to try and release trigger points. Through those needles they used sugar solutions, salt based solutions, local anesthetics and the control for the experiment was a ‘dry needle’, when no liquid was injected into the dysfunctional soft tissue. 

The control or ‘dry needle’ was as effective at eliciting a relief from the trigger points dysfunctional state as any, if not more than, the needles where liquids were injected.

Therefore the term describing the use of a ‘dry’ hypodermic needle to release trigger points was born.

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