Dry Needling is the technique of inserting a solid filiform needle into trigger points to release them. Trigger points are irritable nodules that can be felt within tight bands of muscle (see our trigger point blog). It is one of the most effective methods of releasing trigger points and has the advantage of being able to reach points that are hidden deep within the muscle. Dry needling has been found to be as effective as injection of substances such as lidocaine for treating muscle and connective tissue pain.
Single use, sterile needles are used and the area to be needled is cleaned. The needles are extremely thin so they often can’t be felt going into the skin but a pinprick may be felt. On contact with a trigger point the patient will typically experience a brief, localized cramping sensation possibly with referral of pain to other areas of the body. Directly needling the trigger point often causes a local twitch response (LTR), this reflex is a good indication that the muscle will relax and the condition will improve.
In most cases there will be some soreness after needling which can last between a few hours to a couple of days. This can be reduced by keeping the muscle moving and you will be shown how to stretch the area to minimize this soreness. It also helps to apply a moist heat to the area for 10-15 minutes at home. Vigorous exercise should be avoided on the day of treatment.
How many sessions?
Your clinician will advise you on the number of sessions required as this depends on your case and treatment goals. Dry needling is usually used in conjunction with other therapeutic approaches and typically produces improvements in the first three sessions.