Dry Needling Treatment – How it Works

Dry Needling Treatment Explained
by Logan Swisher SPT

How is Dry Needling treatment applied?

Dry needling treatment has become an increasingly popular treatment technique performed by certified health care providers. It refers to the insertion of a very thin needle into muscles, ligaments, tendons, subcutaneous fascia, and/or scar tissue for the management of numerous musculoskeletal pain syndromes.

Trigger points

There are several advantages to the technique documented in the literature which include an immediate reduction in local and /or widespread pain, restoration of range of motion and normalization of chemical imbalances with active myofascial trigger points. A trigger point is a hyperirritable spot often referred to “a knot” in the muscle or fascia which can cause pinpoint pain in the or refer to another area in the body. Trigger points can further be divided into active and latent trigger points. Active trigger points commonly have spontaneous local and referred pain while latent trigger points do not cause spontaneous pain unless they are stimulated by pressure.

How are trigger points formed?

The exact mechanism of trigger point formation is not well understood but it is thought that it starts as the development of tight muscle fibers or taut bands which may or may not be painful. This is possibly due to chemical reaction dysfunction at the cellular level of muscle fibers. Trigger points are thought to develop following low-load repetitive tasks, sustained postures or rapid loading and unloading of muscles. Initially taut band formation is a normal physiologic, protective and stabilizing mechanism associated with damage or potential muscle damage. Active trigger points produce constant pain signals to the brain which can alter movement patterns and lead to disuse. Trigger points have also been seen to cause decreased blood flow and oxygen to the affect muscle which further decreases the muscles ability to function properly.

Differences between dry needling treatment and manual trigger point release

The main difference between dry needling and manual trigger point release is the specificity dry needling provides. Dry needling latent trigger points can lead to their inactivation and prevent the formation of active trigger points as well as reduce the pain signals they produce. It is rarely a stand-alone treatment and is generally considered another instrument assisted manual therapy technique. Dry needling can be very useful in facilitating a rapid reduction of pain and return to function.

How it is applied at Physical Therapy First

Here at PTFirst we will perform a comprehensive exam and work with you to decide if dry needling is a good option for you. We pride ourselves on taking a multimodal approach to reducing pain and improving function so you can return to the activities that are important to you.