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Dry Needling FAQ

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is an invasive procedure in which a solid filament needle is inserted into the skin and muscle directly at a myofascial trigger point. A myofascial trigger point consists of multiple contraction knots related to the production and maintenance of the pain cycle.

Is dry needling similar to acupuncture?

There are similarities and differences between dry needling and acupuncture. Licensed physical therapists in a growing number of states can use dry needling under the scope of their practice. Dry needling also falls within the scope of acupuncture. No one profession owns this.

Those who use dry needling use solid filament needles to help achieve the desired results. In contrast to most acupuncture schools, which are based on a rich tradition of Chinese Medicine, dry needling is strictly based on Western medicine principles and research. It is another tool we use to treat trigger points and address myofascial restrictions.

How does dry needling work?

Not all mechanisms of dry needling are yet known. There are both mechanical and biochemical effects. Based on the pioneering studies by Dr. Jay Shah and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health, we know that inserting a needle into trigger points can cause favorable biochemical changes, which assist in reducing pain. It is essential to elicit local twitch responses, which are spinal cord reflexes. Getting local twitch responses with dry needling is the first step in breaking the pain cycle.

What type of problems can be treated with dry needling?

Dry needling can be used for a variety of musculoskeletal problems. Muscles are thought to be a primary contributing factor to the symptoms. Such conditions include (but are not limited to) neck, back and shoulder pain, arm pain (tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, golfer’s elbow), headaches (including migraines and tension-type headaches), jaw pain, buttock pain, leg pain (sciatica, hamstrings strains, calf tightness/spasms), and foot and ankle pain. The treatment of muscles has the greatest effect on reducing pain mechanisms in the nervous system.

Is the procedure painful?

Many patients feel a slight pinch at the insertion of the needle. The local twitch response often elicits a brief painful response. Some patients describe this as burning or tingling. Others feel it more like a cramping sensation or a dull ache. Again, the therapeutic response occurs with the elicitation of local twitch responses, which is a good and desirable reaction.

Are the needles sterile?

Yes, we only use sterile disposable needles.

What side effects can I expect after the treatment?

Most patients report being sore after the procedure. They describe these sensations as muscle soreness over the area treated and into the areas of referred symptoms. Some also say that their muscle feels fatigued. Typically, the soreness lasts between a few hours and two days.

What should I do after having the procedure done?

Our recommendations vary depending on the amount of soreness you have and the individual response to the treatment. Recommendations may include applying heat or ice over the area, gentle stretches, and modifications of activities.

How long does it take for the procedure to work?

Typically, it takes several visits for a positive reaction to take place. Again, we are trying to cause mechanical and biochemical changes without any pharmacological means. Therefore, we are looking for a cumulative response to achieve a certain threshold after which the pain cycle is broken or reduced.

Why is my doctor not familiar with dry needling?

In the US, dry needling is a relatively new method for treating myofascial pain. Not everyone is aware of this effective modality. Feel free to inform your doctor about this treatment option. It is upon all of us to educate others about new and innovative ways to treat pain.

Where does dry needling fit in the entire rehabilitation program?

Generally speaking, dry needling is a modality of choice for treating patients in the clinic. More frequently, dry needling is needed at the beginning of your plan of care to break the pain cycle. Once that is achieved, other treatment options are introduced.

Once I am feeling better, how often do I need to come back to maintain my progress?

The musculoskeletal system is under constant pressure from gravity, stress, work, etc. A regular exercise program combined with good posture and proper nutrition can prevent many problems. If the pain comes back, “tune-ups” are recommended to treat and prevent serious injuries. We will work with you to determine your best maintenance schedule based on your symptoms, progress, and (simply put) how you’re feeling.

Where can I get more information about the procedure and people that are licensed to perform it?

I was trained through Myopain Seminars. You can find out more information about them 

Contact Restorative PT, Inc. in Asheville today to schedule an appointment at 828-788-3990 or info@restorative-pt.com

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