Dry needling is very much like acupuncture but with an increased focus on specific trigger points, rather than acupuncture points. Dry needling involves placing the same thin needles used for acupuncture and using them to elicit muscle twitches and break apart surrounding fascia. It has recently started to become more popular and can be used as an aid in rehabilitation and performance programs.
- Some things to remember:
- Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds and connects muscles to other structures in the body.
- Trigger points are physiologically contracted muscles. There’s a few different types (active, latent, and satellite), but for now we’ll focus on active ones. These are characterized by pain on compression, referred tenderness, and biochemical changes (increased levels of chemicals associated with inflammation and pain).
- You don’t want to try and strengthen a muscle that has a trigger point, because it’s already contracted! It will just make it worse.
- Dry needling has been found to:
- Increase range-of-motion, due to increased blood flow and decreased banding of the fascia.
- Decrease pain, due to decreased levels of substance P (involved in pain) and increased levels of B-endorphins (the body’s natural “feel-good” chemical)
- Improve muscular function, thanks to increased range-of-motion and decreased levels of pain!
- Is there any evidence supporting it?
- One study found dry needling of the trapezius and on those with chronic neck pain to be more effective then passive stretching alone in increasing range of motion, decreasing pain, and increasing muscle strength1,2
- One systematic review found dry needling to be effective for various muscle groups, indicating its broad applicability3
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Written by Dr. Brandon Buchla, DC, CSCS
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