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Dry Needling – American Academy of Manipulative Therapy

Dry Needling – American Academy of Manipulative Therapy

Dry Needling is a technique physical therapists use to treat pain and movement impairments. The physical therapist inserts a “dry” needle, one without medication or injection, into areas of the muscle.

Other terms used to describe dry needling include:

  • Trigger point dry needling.
  • Intramuscular manual therapy other than trigger points.

Dry needling is not acupuncture, which is based on traditional Chinese medicine performed by acupuncturists. Dry needling is a part of modern Western medicine and is supported by evidence-based research.

What is dry needling used to treat?

Dry Needling is used in the management of headaches, cervical, thoracic, upper extremity pain syndromes, lumbopelvic pathologies, and lower extremity pain syndromes.

What Is a Trigger Point?

A trigger point is a taut band of skeletal muscle within a larger muscle group. Trigger points can be tender to the touch. Touching a trigger point may refer pain to other parts of the body.

What Kind of Needles Are Used?

Dry needling involves a very thin monofilament acupuncture needle. The needle penetrates the skin and stimulates underlying myofascial trigger points and muscular and connective tissues. The needle allows a physical therapist to target tissues they are not able to reach with their hands. The sterile needles are patient specific and used only one time before proper disposal.

Why Dry Needling?

When physical therapists use dry needling, it is typically part of a larger treatment plan. It can release or inactivate trigger points to relieve pain or improve range of motion. Research suggests that dry needling improves pain control and reduces muscle tension. Study findings also show that dry needling can normalize dysfunctions of the motor end plates, from which nerve impulses get transmitted to muscles. Inflammation is reduced quickly and return to normal motor function is enhanced. This can help speed up the patient’s or athlete’s return to previous activities. But more importantly, dry needling is certainly a lot more than sticking needles in trigger points! More specifically, peri-neural and peri-vascular dry needling improves microcirculation and disrupts fibrosis in chronic neurogenic pain syndromes.

Why should you request dry needling treatment?

  • In a controlled study, significantly more patients who received dry needling (81%) completely stopped taking medication for their pain compared to patients in a control group who received exercise therapy alone.
  • In a study based on return to previous activities, the controlled group required 17 treatments and the dry needling group only required 3 three treatments. This is an 83.9% reduction in recovery time.
  • Significant cartilage recovery and reduction in joint stiffness in patient’s and athletes with osteo arthritis. Much better results than cortisone injections. 

What are the physiological responses to dry needling?

  • Cartilage repair
  • Enhances microcirculation and synovial lubrication
  • Blocks release of cytokines and their inflammatory properties
  • Induces the rise of natural opioid levels = less pain

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