Dry needling is a technique that uses a thin filament needle in targeted muscles to increase flexibility, improve blood flow, decrease pain, and improve the overall healing process.
This technique focuses on releasing and remodeling trigger points that are responsible for causing muscular and fascial pain.
Everyone has varying responses to needling. Some people enjoy the technique while others don’t. When performed properly, it will cause a muscle twitch response that can be uncomfortable for a split second. Most people will report mild muscle soreness that can last for 1-2 days.
While acupuncture and dry needling use the same type of needle, the technique is different. Acupuncture focuses on meridians. Furthermore, acupuncturists will typically use multiple needles at any one time and will allow the needle to rest in the muscle for a period of time before removing it entirely. Acupuncturists generally treat a variety of symptoms outside of just pain.
Dry needling focuses on finding the trigger points located within the muscle that are contributing to the underlying pain. It is a more direct approach for pain relief than acupuncture. Our physical therapy in Durham, NC, finds dry needling to work best for referred pain.
Referred pain is a phenomenon that occurs when pain is felt at a site that is different from the injured area. For example, we commonly see clients with knee pain that is referred from the hip. Or, hip pain referring from the back. Or, carpal tunnel syndrome referring from the rotator cuff. Referred pain is extremely common and is something we specialize in diagnosing and treating.
Dry needle therapy should always be used in combination with exercise and movement. In our experience, needling speeds up pain relief. However, the underlying movement dysfunctions must be addressed otherwise you run the risk of the pain returning because the root problem is still present.
In other words, needling does wonders for decreasing pain — particularly referred pain. But it’s never the answer for long-term results. Fixing the movement dysfunctions is the long-term solution for pain relief.
Many people will feel improvement with pain the same day as receiving treatment. Occasionally, dry needle therapy will need to be performed 2-3 times before improvement in pain is felt. However, if this is the case it's likely the practitioner is performing the technique in the wrong area.
Most people do feel a bit of discomfort with dry needling. The discomfort will ease in 1-3 days.
Your physical therapist should perform needling in combination with exercise. Dry needling can temporarily improve pain and flexibility. However, if the underlying problem which caused the pain to begin with isn't corrected, the pain will eventually return.
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