Dry Needling: What’s the Point?

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is a common treatment technique performed at our physical therapy clinic in Greenville, South Carolina.  Dry needling is often used to treat pain related to tension in muscles.  Muscles sometimes develop knotted areas called trigger points.  These trigger points are highly sensitive and can be painful when touched.  They can also refer pain to other parts of the body.  Physical therapists can place thin needles through the skin into these trigger points.  The needles are used to stimulate the muscle (not to inject medication).

How does dry needling feel?

A patient may experience different sensations when being needled, muscle soreness, aching and a muscle twitch when a needle is inserted is considered to be a good sign. The needles may be placed deeply or superficially, for shorter or longer periods of time, depending on what type of pain is being treated and how long it has lasted. Shorter periods of time would mean that the needle would stay in the muscle for seconds, while longer periods could mean 10 to 15 minutes.

What kind of conditions respond well to dry needling?

Many different types of musculoskeletal problems respond well to dry needling.  In our office, we have found that dry needling can help patients can get relief from:

  • Joint problems
  • Disk problems
  • Tendinitis
  • Migraine and tension-type headaches
  • Jaw and mouth problems (such as temporomandibular joint disorders or TMD)
  • Whiplash
  • Repetitive motion disorders (like carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Spinal problems

How long does relief last?

Dry needling can work wonders to relax muscles, but the discomfort will return quickly if there are underlying imbalances driving the tension.  Tense muscles are often tense because of weakness in the tense muscle or surrounding muscle groups.  To find lasting relief, stability and strength must be developed.  Therefore, dry needling should not be used as a stand-alone treatment.  At Movement Solutions, we use dry needling as part of a comprehensive plan of care.

What the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?

The primary difference between dry needling and acupuncture is that acupuncture is rooted in Chinese medicine.  Acupuncture treats for the purpose of altering the flow of Qi (or energy) along traditional Chinese meridians.

Dry needling is rooted in western medicine.  Physical therapists use needles to affect pain, tension, blood flow, and circulation for the treatment of specific conditions.

Is dry needling right for me?

Dry needling can be a powerful treatment tool for a variety of musculoskeletal conditions.  It’s is often a first step for alleviating pain and discomfort.  However, it should not be seen as a “quick-fix.” The relief provides a window of time to develop proper movement and lasting mobility.  When integrated with stability, strength, and a physical therapy plan of care, dry needling is an effective tool to get active people moving again.

Are you wondering if dry needling is right for you?  We encourage you to request a phone consultation with one of our physical therapists.  If you’re suffering from a musculoskeletal problem and are interested in receiving help, we would be glad to discuss if dry needling makes sense for you.

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