Your Dry Needling Questions Answered!

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Your Dry Needling Questions Answered!


Have you ever heard the term “dry needling?” 

Most people have! This popular treatment technique has taken the physio world by storm over the past decade and there is a reason why! Dry needling can be an incredibly effective treatment tool when used alongside regular physiotherapy. But if you’re like me, you probably have some questions before you volunteer to get stuck like a pin cushion. 


“What is dry needling and what does it do?” 

Dry needling involves the insertion of very fine filament needles through the surface of the skin into specific muscular trigger points. Trigger points can be thought of as an area of muscle where the fibers have become knotted up, disrupting the function and range of motion of the muscle, as well as causing pain. When the needle is inserted into a trigger point, it helps break up the knot and elicit a “twitch” response in the muscle. This helps to decrease the tightness of the muscle, increase blood flow, promote the immune system’s healing response, and reduce pain. Dry needling is one of the deepest tissue release therapies available today and is renowned for its pain relieving after effects. The entire process can be completed in less than 30 seconds! 


“Is dry needling the same as acupuncture?”

No, dry needling is not the same as acupuncture. Although the two treatment methods both involve the insertion of fine needles, the approach and reasoning behind the action is much different. Acupuncture is a centuries old practice that is based on targeting and directing energy within the body’s underlying meridian pathways (nerves). Dry needling, on the other hand, is based on identifying specific muscular trigger points and releasing them. While acupuncture follows traditional Eastern medicine, dry needling is rooted in Western medicine and the evaluation of pain patterns, posture, movement impairments, and function. In terms of application, acupuncture can be used to treat a wide variety of physical and psychological conditions, but dry needling is used to reduce pain and tension in specific areas.


“Is dry needling safe?” 

Yes, dry needling is a safe and effective form of treatment when performed by a properly trained practitioner. Prior to needling, the area of the skin that is going to be needled will be sterilized with an alcohol swab. Each needle is taken from an individual, sterile, package and inserted directly into the skin. The needles used are extremely fine and pose little risk of any lasting damage to tissues, nerves, or blood vessels. However, it should be noted that this form of treatment is not recommended for individuals who are currently on blood thinners, have a history of blood clotting disorders, are pregnant, or have an active infection. 


“What does dry needling feel like?”

The needles that we use here at Aspire are thin, and I mean really, really thin. Imagine the size of a hypodermic needle… Now imagine that needle 20x smaller in diameter! That’s roughly the size of the needles that we use for dry needling. Most of my patients are unable to feel the needle until it hits the muscle tissue and elicits a twitch! When this occurs, you can expect to experience a subtle “shock” sensation, or a sudden contraction and relaxation of the particular muscle. Following a dry needling session, it is common to feel some soreness in the targeted muscle that will then fade over the next day or so. This soreness is the result of the inflammatory response triggered by the needling. Patients who experience this side effect may choose to manage their soreness by applying ice!


If you have any more questions about dry needling or how a physical therapist might use it to benefit you, reach out to one of our team members at 780-540-1115! To book in with a dry needling practitioner, be sure to check out our “Meet the Team” page to see which of our physiotherapist’s are qualified to do so.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Aspire Physiotherapy