Dry needling is a skilled treatment technique performed by certified physical therapists to treat pain associated with myofascial trigger points as well as scar tissue, bone, tendon and connective tissue pain.
Dry needling gets its name from the solid, tiny filament needles that are used, as they are “dry” and do not inject medication into the body. It is the mechanism of the placement the needle into the tissue that stimulates the targeted trigger point or treatment area, helping to decrease muscle tightness, increase blood flow, and reduce local and referred pain, all of which improve overall motion and mobility.
These treatments are commonly incorporated into physical therapy plans for those who experience chronic pain, headaches, neck and back pain, overuse injuries, muscle spasms and strains, tendonitis, and many more conditions. There are different dry needling techniques based on the goal of the treatment. The needle(s) may be placed in the muscle/trigger point or affected area and taken out quickly or left in for up to 30 minutes at a time.
During a dry needling treatment, the patient may feel what’s called a “twitch response” or a quick muscle spasm, it may feel like an ache or cramp but only lasts less than a second. Patients will often note improvement in their pain and mobility immediately after a dry needling session. It is not uncommon to have mild soreness, aches, redness, bruising or fatigue after a treatment. It is important to follow the physical therapists’ recommendations for after-treatment recovery, which may include avoiding anti-inflammatories and strenuous activity.
Dry needling is not acupuncture; however, the needle is the same, just utilized differently to target regions of the body. It is based on Western medicine principles and evidence-based research for treating myofascial trigger points, tendons, ligaments and scar tissue, whereas Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine practice and aims to alter the flow and balance of energy along Chinese meridians to ease pain, discomfort, or other health issues.
Dry needling is not for everyone, so it is important to discuss your health history and concerns with your physical therapist and healthcare professionals to determine if it is appropriate for you. Dry needling is very safe, and benefits can be experienced within one treatment session.
Unified Physical Therapy Services offers dry needling services in Dubuque and Southwest Wisconsin. Give us a call at 563-583-4003 if you feel dry needling can help you!
Katie Osterhaus, PT, DPT, LAT, is a Physical Therapist with over 14 years of experience. Katie evaluates conditions and construct an individualized treatment program for her patients. She is well-versed in a broad range of assessments, treatments, modalities and programming in a rural healthcare setting.