As with any physiotherapy treatment at Peak Form Physio, the clinician will typically begin with a quick history and re-evaluation of your current symptoms. If dry needling is appropriate for your treatment plan, your clinician will inform you about the process. Dry needling is a tool used by our physiotherapists with the aim of treating neuromuscular dysfunction, reducing chronic pain, and speeding up recovery post-activity.
Single-use thin filament needles are inserted into muscular trigger points, or bands of taut muscle fibers which are hypersensitized. The needles are then stimulated manually through physical manipulation or electrically using an electrical stimulation unit. The purpose of this is two-fold: firstly it can elicit a “local twitch response” which may help decrease the muscle tension and promote the healing process locally, and secondly it may reset the neurological wiring of the muscle that is in spasm and contributing to pain.
Most people who undergo dry needling report minimal to no pain when the needle is being inserted. The local twitch response may elicit some discomfort or ache, usually described as a muscle ache or cramping sensation. You may experience some soreness post-treatment, similar to post-exercise muscle soreness or heaviness. This typically lasts no more than 24 hours, and can be alleviated with heat and gentle movement.
It is important to note that any physiotherapy treatment may not be effective if it is not guided by a proper assessment. Particularly for dry needling, the location and targeted structures may not be exactly where the location of the pain is. The source or cause of the pain can be located elsewhere, and the pain itself, which is a symptom of an underlying cause, can radiate and manifest in different places.
Dry needling can be used to treat a number of different musculoskeletal issues, including neck and back pain, shoulder tendonitis, muscle spasms/strains, sciatica, and hip/knee pain. Because of the central sensitization pathway, it is typically very effective with dealing with chronic pain and injuries, and the local twitch response pathway can be utilized to treat the athletic population with acute sports injuries. Many healthy professional athletes take advantage of dry needling during post-training recovery with their physiotherapists, with the goal of allowing them to train harder, recover faster, and perform better than before.