A relatively new and effective treatment being used in the physical therapy arena is trigger point dry needling. Trigger point dry needling (TrP-DN) aids to alleviate soreness and tenderness that is associated with trigger points. Our Physical Therapists at Oklahoma Physical Therapy are trained in TrP-DN and we effectively treat our patients on the face, neck, shoulders, low back, legs, feet, arms and hands.
So what is dry needling and how effective is this treatment?
Trigger point dry needling (TrP-DN), also referred to as intramuscular stimulation, is an invasive procedure using an acupuncture needle to deactivate and desensitize these trigger points. It is a manual technique in which a small, sterile, disposable solid filament needle is used. It involves insertion and repetitive manipulation of the needle in the myofascial trigger point in order to produce a local twitch response. An acupuncture needle is used because the acupuncture needle is very fine and solid, and doesn’t hurt as it passes through the skin and is known to be less invasive than a hollow injection needle.
You might be wondering if acupuncture and TrP-DN are the same thing and how might they differ. Dry Needling is performed by Western Medical Practitioners using needles that are similar to acupuncture needles to treat the musculoskeletal and nervous systems based on modern neuroanatomy science. Acupuncture is known to be a traditional Chinese medical treatment. It would be incorrect to refer to a physician who practices dry needling as an “Acupuncturist” since Dry Needling does not use traditional meridians.
As mentioned above when a needle tip hits a trigger point, an involuntary ‘local twitch’ in the muscle is observed resulting in local muscle relaxation. A trigger point is a hyperirritable spot in a muscle which is painful to touch. This hypersensitive spot can give referred pain, referred tenderness, and other referred symptoms in areas other than where the muscle is located. It has been suggested that the elicitation of local twitch responses is the most important aspect in obtaining a successful therapeutic outcome for trigger point deactivation. Still unproven, it is suspected that by stimulating the trigger points, TrP-DN can communicate to the brain thus allowing there to be a decrease in pain. People who receive significant relief in massage therapy have found TrP-DN to provide longer lasting relief. Trigger point works best for people with overuse injuries, chronic pain, and sports injuries.
The advantage of TrP-DN over other techniques is that parts of the muscle and deeper layers of muscles which our hands and fingers cannot reach are able to be treated. Also, this method is extremely advantageous in achieving a local twitch response over other manual techniques. Since there isn’t an injection of drugs during this procedure the physical therapists can treat many different trigger points during each treatment.
Deactivation of the trigger points can bring immediate relief of symptoms. Since full, pain free range of motion and normal muscle function is the ultimate goal of myofascial treatments, we at Oklahoma Physical Therapy will help to train the muscles to work in their newly acquired range of motion.
If you decide to try TrP-DN, you may experience the following benefits including: lasting pain relief from head to toe, elimination of tension, an increase in healing time, releasing of tight muscles, improved blood flow, healing of chronic muscle, tendon and joint injuries as well as it will help you get back to exercising.
One session may last 30 minutes, depending on the size of area to be treated. You can expect results in as little as one treatment and may take up to 6 sessions. You will know positive change has occurred right after the session, because you will experience the same soreness you experience after a great workout or too much activity. The muscle will feel fatigued and the soreness can last from a few hours to 1-2 days but you will still be able to complete your normal daily activities. After a day or so, you should experience less pain and the chronic injury will actually start to improve.
Our physical therapists at Oklahoma Physical Therapy are professionally trained and skilled in dry needling and look forward to partnering with you to get your pain free range of motion back through various techniques and treatments that might include TrP-DN.