Dry needling has been all the rage in musculoskeletal therapies the last few years. Essentially, dry needling is the placement of a fine filament needle into a muscle to create a decrease in muscle tension and improve musculoskeletal function. The ‘dry’ part of the name refers to no fluid being inserted or removed, as opposed to an intramuscular injection or a blood test.
Benefits of dry needling
- Release of local chemicals causing an increase in blood flow, promoting tissue oxygenation and a healing response
- Muscle relaxation through increased muscle fibre length and reduced tone
- Improved joint mobility due to improved muscle length and stretch
- Endorphin release reduces pain levels
How is dry needling different to acupuncture?
Acupuncture and dry needling both use the fine needles placed in specific points around the body to achieve a certain response.
Where they differ is:
- The placement/location of the needles
- The amount of time the needles are left in for
- The goal of needle use
- The philosophy behind the practice
Acupuncture is a traditional chinese medicinal practice technique, where needles are placed in chi energy channel pathways. The needles are often left for periods of 10-30 minutes to promote chi energy flow.
Conversely, dry needling is a younger technique in its philosophy. It aims to decrease muscle spasm and create mild local inflammation to promote healing. Needles are generally inserted for a shorter period of time, sometimes as little as 30 seconds. The goal is to reduce muscle tightness/spasm to improve mobility of surrounding joints.
Are there any risks?
As with all treatment techniques, there are associated risks. As one of the desired clinical outcomes is encouragement of local inflammatory healing mechanisms, there is occasionally some local tenderness or discomfort after needling. Bruising is also fairly common.
The most substantial risk is damage to surrounding soft tissues or organs by a poorly placed or poorly controlled needle. For this reason, we are exceptionally careful with our needle placement into appropriate anatomical structures. We have never experienced any adverse reactions (other than normal local tenderness) in our clinic.
I’m afraid of needles – is this a problem?
If you prefer to avoid needling we have many other techniques we can use as an alternative. If you would like to try dry needling, but are feeling a little nervous, let us know and we can talk you through the process to put you at ease.
Want to see if dry needling could help you? Book a session with Osteopath Claire today!