It looks like acupuncture – and it does use the same tiny needles. But dry needling is a lot different than the traditional Eastern energy healing practice.
“Functional dry needling,” as it’s officially called, can be an effective type of treatment that can reduce pain, tension, and inflammation, as well as improve mobility and blood flow in the muscles.
Here’s a closer look at dry needling and why we offer it at Comprehensive Chiropractic.
What Is Functional Dry Needling?
Functional dry needling is a technique used to release tight muscle bands associated with trigger points or dysfunctional muscles that cause pain. Dry needling uses thin, solid, filament, acupuncture-style needles to stimulate a neurological response in the muscle by activating the motor neuron. In other words, we place the needles in specific points of the muscle – where the nerve connects with the muscle – causing an inflammatory response that relaxes, desensitizes, and deactivates those overworked or tight muscles.
It’s called “dry needling” because it uses a solid needle with no injectable or medical substance. A “wet” needle involves a hollow needle used to deliver something into the body, like saline or anesthetics.
Dry needling can also turn on underactive, weak, dysfunctional muscles. For that, we apply electric current to the tissue. In this case, the muscle is typically not receiving proper neurological input from the brain or nerves, and the needles attached with a high, fast electrical current make those muscles contract. It essentially forces that muscle to fire, which communicates to the brain that this muscle can still work, while simultaneously sending healing blood flow to that area.
The electrical stimulation pads, at a different current (slow and low), can also work on tight muscles by reducing muscle spasms and increasing blood flow.
The whole process of getting dry needled is quick. It takes maybe 30 seconds to clean the skin with alcohol and apply a needle. We may leave the electrical stimulation device on for two to five minutes. The experience is not painful – but rather a dull ache or cramp – and can be stopped instantly and easily at any point.
What Are The Benefits Of Functional Dry Needling?
Dry needling is for muscle conditions. At Comprehensive Chiropractic, we are certified in advanced techniques, so we can dry needle almost any muscle. Compared with other treatments for muscles, like massage, dry needling gets much deeper than you could access with just your hands.
Most people say they feel better the first time and right away. It can immediately improve your range of motion and pain.
Conditions that may benefit from dry needling can include repetitive stress injuries, muscle tendonitis, neck pain, headaches, rotator cuff impingement, frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, sciatica, muscle strains, IT band syndrome, patellofemoral dysfunction, plantar fascistic and more.
Bottom line: If active trigger points or dysfunction in the muscle group is causing the pain or weakness, muscle tightness and/or muscle weakness, then dry needling would be a good option.
After a treatment, research shows you can continue to feel progressively better for the next seven days. If you follow the at-home protocols and make changes to the activity that caused the muscular issue to begin with, the issues may never come back.
And if it doesn’t work, that’s a helpful indicator that muscles aren’t generating the pain. In that, dry needling can also provide a diagnostic benefit, like peeling back layers of an onion.
How Is Dry Needling Different From Acupuncture?
Dry needling uses the same needles as acupuncture, but the intention is different. Dry needling does not work on energy systems and chi, but focuses on the muscles. Dry needling also goes a little deeper than acupuncture.
What Are The Risks Of Dry Needling?
Most people don’t feel the insertion of the needle at all. Remember, these needles are 0.25mm wide. That’s one fourth the size of a sewing needle.
However, you may experience a twitch response when the needles are inserted. This local twitch response elicits a very brief cramping and/or deep aching sensation. While the needle is inserted, it might recreate your pain or may refer to other areas of the body. The twitch response and referred pain is actually a good and desirable reaction, because it helps confirm a source of dysfunction.
After a treatment, you may feel sore for up to 24 hours, similar to how a muscle feels sore after working out. Rarely, you may have a small bruise, if we hit a blood vessel.
The e-stim treatments tend to create less soreness because it doesn’t require moving the needle around or putting it in and out of the muscle.
Functional Dry Needling At Comprehensive Chiropractic
We provide treatment alongside education about your condition to help manage your current injury and to prevent future injuries.
Give us a call at (720) 458-0487 or message us here with any further questions about dry needling and other therapies in our office.