The practice of ‘dry needling’ involves inserting a needle into a trigger point and is typically used to treat the pain associated with injuries. A trigger point is a tender spot in a tight band of muscle which causes pain when pressed or squeezed.
How does dry needling work?
The exact mechanisms of dry needling are not known. There are 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 favourable biochemical changes, which assist in reducing pain. It is essential to elicit so-called local twitch responses, which are spinal cord reflexes. Local twitch response 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. Neuromuscular dysfunction and imbalances 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), headache to include migraines and tension-type headaches, jaw pain, buttock pain and leg pain (sciatica, hamstrings strains, calf tightness/spasms). The treatment of muscles has the greatest effect on reducing pain mechanisms in the nervous system.
What side effects can I expect after the treatment?
Mild soreness is a common after the procedure. The soreness is described as muscle soreness over the area treated and into the areas of referred symptoms. Typically, the soreness lasts between a few hours and two days.
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 disturbed.