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The Surprise benefits of dry needling.

Dry needling

What is dry needling and why do I need it?

Dry needling is becoming a more accepted and common treatment modality these days. It can be great at fixing problems that just won't shift. Whether you’ve had this form of treatment before or not getting an idea of how it works makes all the difference in understanding your treatment. Lets take a look at what it’s all about.

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling uses acupuncture needles inserted into individual muscles and precise soft tissue locations, as opposed to acupuncture points. The aim of dry needling is to target trigger points, fibrotic muscles, and densified fascia thereby getting you out of pain and often moving stubborn painful dysfunctions that have been there for years.

Here at muscle therapy Australia, we use super thin needles and target the precise location to insert the needle. Once the target tissue is contacted, we use a pulsing motion effectively "kneading" out trigger points or tight spots in the muscle tissue. This technique can often cause the muscle to twitch, and the relax. It is a great way reduce muscle pain!

Other effective ways we use to get a fantastic release is to spin or twist the needle, in where as we spin the needle, it wraps the fascia around the needle body effectively giving it the muscle and fascia a stretch. This kind of technique can also give you a very deep referring sensation, but ultimately giving you a great feeling of relieving your symptoms of pain.

What does dry needling do?

There are a few ideas as to what dry needling actually does. One idea is that trigger points don’t get the nutrients required to let go and release and become irritated causing pain and dysfunction. Muscles need nutrients such as calcium and magnesium to contract and relax. It is thought that inserting the needle into this point will create micro traumas to the area and then bring nutrients to the area setting off the body's natural healing process.

When a needle is inserted into the trigger point it can make it spasm as this can be the nerve trigger which makes the muscle contract and relax interrupting the nervous systems holding of the muscle and allowing it to relax.

The twisting of the needles is thought to stretch or release the muscle and fascia as it wraps around the needle.

Why is it called dry needling?

It is called dry needling as there is no injection so the needle is dry. Sports doctors and some acupuncturists use injections into trigger points, acupuncture points and inflamed tissue and this could technically be called “wet needling”. No one actually uses the term wet needling though, you would generally just say and injection. The term dry needling was used to differentiate the technique from injections.

How is dry needling different to acupuncture?

Dry needling is not acupuncture. Acupuncture is a technique that comes out of Traditional Chinese Medicine and is based on the Chinese Meridian system. Needles are placed into acupuncture points all over the body to undo energy blockages. Dry needling works more on painful and specific spots in the body and the big difference being that the needles are inserted into muscles and fascia and has eveolved more out of a western medical framework. It is mainly the philosophy that is different between dry needling and acupuncture.

What is the history of Dry Needling?

Dry needling has its origin in Acupuncture, were needles have been used to move the flow of energy (or chi) in the body for thousands of years mainly in China. In the west it was not until 1938 that Professor John Kellgren of Manchester university first adapted modern neurophysiology concepts to the ancient technique, observing that by applying sustained pressure on muscles he could identify exquisite tender points and reproduce the patients pain, and ease them by injecting an analgesic (using “wet needles”). As other drugs were trialled over the years it became clear that pain relief was in fact dependent on the stimulation of the needle itself, and not on the substance administered.

One of the first Doctors to employ Dry Needling for pain relief was Dr Karel Lewit of Czechoslovakia in 1979. He reported favourable results on the use of Dry Needles i.e. stimulating trigger points with acupuncture needles in patients with musculoskeletal pain. The use of acupuncture needles is a refinement of the earlier methods which used hypodermic needles. This significantly reduces the risk of haematoma and bruising associated with hollow needles.

Janet Travell (1901 –1997) an American Physician contributed greatly to todays understanding of the type of muscle pain Kellgren and others had investigated. As it is the neural hyperactivity associated with the tender points in both muscle and fascia that triggers off referred pain. Janet Travell called the exquisite tender points “Trigger points”. She also introduced the term Myofascial trigger point (MTrP) (Travell and Simon’s 1999).

Does it hurt?

Generally dry needling doesn't hurt, often you will just feel pressure deep in the tissue. When the needle hits the trigger point in a muscle you can feel a twitch or spasm which can be more of a surprise than being painful. Other sensations you can feel include referral pain. It affects people in different ways. Some people may be sore for a couple of days afterwards and others will feel not pain at all. Some body parts are also more likely to be painful such as the calves. Stretching afterwards can greatly reduce any pain felt. It can be thought of like exercise soreness or DOMS.

Is it safe?

Dry needling is a very safe form of treatment. In qualified and experienced hands, with a solid understanding of anatomy you have no need to worry. If your practitioner is compassionate they will ensure that if you are feeling really uncomfortable that the needles will be removed immediately. In a rare number of cases people with a needle phobia may feel nauseated or feel light headed so in this case it’s best not to use dry needling.

What can Dry Needling help?

Dry needling can help with most soft tissue injuries. Whether is is chronic trigger points or fascial restrictions, muscle tears, tendonitis and also stiffness in joints and soft tissues. Dry needling can help with chronic pain as it has been shown to desensitise painful areas as well as acute injuries as it has been shown to reduce inflammation,.

What to expect after Dry Needling?

As with most effective techniques, dry needling may have you feeling a sense of stiffness or soreness in the needled region for a couple of days as the tissue repairs itself. This is all very normal and after this recovery process you should feel your symptoms alleviated.

At Muscle Therapy Australia we use Dry Needling in combination with other therapies such as Active Release Techniques, Fascial Manipulation, Myofascial Release, Trigger Point Therapy and Deep Tissue massage as we find this makes it an even more effective treatment than just dry needling alone, getting you out of pain fast. Soft tissue work and stretching after dry needling can also reduce the amount of time you may feel sore after the needling.

If you have any questions, feedbank or want to book in a session go to or call 9233 5769

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