People seeking pain relief are turning to alternative therapies. Some of these pain-relieving practices include physical therapy, chiropractic manipulation, yoga, and supplements.
One method that is becoming increasingly popular is dry needling. Dry needling is a treatment where a trained practitioner inserts fine needles into the trigger points of a muscle. When the trigger point releases, the patient experiences pain relief.
The needle used for dry needling contains no medication or fluid, and it does not inject anything into the body. The number of needles used varies according to the size of the treated area and the desired number of appointments. The average dry needling session involves 5-20 needles, which are removed a few minutes after insertion.
The Advantages of Dry Needling
Dry needling can benefit athletes, injured people, or those with health conditions. Unlike prescription pain medicine and surgery, dry needling has very few side effects and risks.
Here are some advantages of using this particular type of therapy:
- Pain Relief: The needles used in dry needling trigger the body to build new muscle fibers, and release pain stored in tight muscles. The patient, not only experiences reduced pain, but they also experience relaxation.
- Speedier Recovery: The therapy releases lactic acid stored in muscles. Blood flow and oxygen then flow to the targeted area. Patients recover faster from their injury and can return to their regular activities.
- Exactness: Dry needling isolates and treats the desired area. The trained practitioner has the anatomical knowledge to create a treatment map. Once trigger points are identified, needles are inserted at precise points.
- Better Range of Motion: Flexibility and range of motion improve after treatment. Activated muscles then respond to the demands of athletic performance and daily tasks.
Dry Needling Risks and Side Effects
Dry needling is safe when performed by a trained professional, such as a licensed physical therapist who is trained in the practice. Like every procedure, however dry needling does carry the risk of minor side effects.
Here are some potential side effects and risks of dry needling:
- Short-term increase in pain: This usually resolves within 24-48 hours after treatment through gentle stretching and massage.
- Bruising or bleeding: These can occur at the insertion site and it is a rare side effect, affecting only 10% of patients. It is more likely to occur with patients who have blood vessel disorders or who are taking blood thinners.
- Fainting: This is more common with people who have low blood pressure or who are dehydrated or hungry prior to their appointment. It can also happen to senior citizens, active, healthy men, or people who may be weak for any number of reasons.
- Fatigue: Some people report feeling tired after a dry needling session.
- Skin Reactions: Some patients have small red spots appear on their skin which typically resolve after a few minutes or a few hours.
Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture
Acupuncture is a practice that has been around for thousands of years and is used by tens of thousands of licensed practitioners. These practitioners study for three to five years, learning how to use needles and diagnose ailments. They study under a senior acupuncturist and undergo testing as well as continued education to maintain licensure. The American Medical Association recognizes acupuncture as a medical treatment, and some insurance plans do provide coverage.
In acupuncture, the principle is that discomfort and pain result from blocked energy or chi. By removing blocked energy, the body returns to a state of balance and has improved energy flow.
Acupuncturists are typically certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Most states require that acupuncturists must be certified in order to practice.
Dry needling differs from acupuncture in that it is based on Western medicine and research, and it directly addresses muscle trigger points. Acupuncture is more focused on placing needles along meridians in the body in order to re-balance energy movement. Dry needling creates a twitch response in the muscle which allows the muscle to relax. Both practices seek to reduce pain and promote healing, they just have different methods and philosophies.
Finding a Practitioner and What To Expect
It is important to find a practitioner that is certified to perform functional dry needling. Here at GinaV Physical Therapy, our clinic is run by Gina Vanderheiden, who is one of the few physical therapists in the Omaha metro area who is certified to provide this type of therapy.
Once you made the appointment for dry needling, here are some helpful tips:
- If you take medicine for pain, including Tylenol, take it before your appointment so that you are not clenching your muscles.
- Move freely after the session, which allows any pain to dissipate. A massage can be helpful in preventing soreness.
- Plan an outfit that allows the practitioner easy access to your problem area, and one that is easy to get in and out of.
- Follow your practitioner’s orders, especially advice about stretching. Soak in a hot bath after treatment and use heat or ice as prescribed.
- If you take prescription medications, continue to take them as prescribed.
- If you want fewer needles, it is okay to ask your practitioner. This can prevent muscle burn-out.
Achieve Your Best Outcome With Dry Needling
No one wants to live with chronic pain. Whether you are suffering from arthritis, an injury, or a more complex condition, dry needling can help you get back on your feet and feel better fast.
With dry needling, you can be sure that your problem area is targeted and treated. You can gain muscle recovery and have a better range of motion. You won’t have the side effects and risks of surgery and unnecessary drugs.
Don’t delay in making an appointment today. Reclaim your health and get back to doing the things you love to do!