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Dry Needling

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a technique in physiotherapy fields that uses acupuncture needles to treat pain and dysfunction caused by muscle spasms / stiffness, sinus trouble, headaches, and some nerve problems. Nothing is injected into the body with the needle and it is safe and sterile to use.

Dry Needling works by changing the way your body senses pain (neurological effects), and by helping the body heal stubborn muscle spasm associated with trigger points (myofascial effects). There are additional electrical and chemical changes associated with dry needling therapy (locally and throughout the body) which assist in the healing process.

What is the difference between Dry Needling and Acupunture?

It is not at all the same as acupuncture. Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, whereas dry needling is a Western Medicine technique, which needs to have a medical diagnosis. There is a clear scientific understanding of the effects of dry needling on the tissue it is inserted into, and it carries not spiritual “baggage” as acupuncture may do.

What does it feel like?

The therapist will choose a length and thickness of needle appropriate for your condition and your body size, and then insert it through the skin at the appropriate place. You will feel a small pinprick. Depending on the type of needle technique chosen by your therapist, you may also feel a muscle ache and a muscle twitch. These are all normal and good sensations, and mean that you will experience good relief from your symptoms.

Some people described it as feeling like “a rush of blood”, “deep ache” or “very lame and heavy” feeling of the area being treated.

What are the risks?

In general, there is very little risk associated with this technique if performed properly by a trained physiotherapist. Some people have a little bruising around the needle site, much the same as you would with any injection. On rare occasions, people may feel very happy, tearful, sweaty or cold. These symptoms all fade quickly. Fainting may occur in a very small minority of people. There are no lasting ill effects of these side effects.

If you are being treated in the shoulder, neck or chest area, there is an additional risk that involves your lung. If the lung itself is punctured, you may develop a condition called a pneumothorax (air in the space around the lung). This is a rare but serious problem, and you should go directly to a hospital casualty department without panicking if it occurs. The symptoms of this event include shortness of breath which gets worse, sudden sharp pain each time you breathe in, a bluish tinge to your lips, and an inability to

“catch your breath”. The treatment is very successful for this rare but possible complication.

How many sessions would you need?

Dry needling is one of many techniques that physiotherapists have to offer to treat muscular dysfunction or pain. It is not a miracle cure! It should be seen as part of your overall physiotherapy rehabilitation. It is a very effective technique to resolve stubborn myofascial trigger points, scarring / adhesions deep in the muscle following previous trauma or injury and improve range of movement and reduce pain. It is often not needed to do 2 consecutive sessions of dry needling. Your physiotherapist will use other manual techniques, electrotherapy and/or rehabilitative exercises to restore function and decrease symptoms following dry needling therapy.


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