Trigger point dry needling is a technique that uses a solid filiform needle to deactivate hyperirritable areas within muscles with the goal of decreasing pain and restoring function. These hyperirritable areas, or also called trigger points, can have wide referral patterns. The needles vary in diameters and lengths depending on the target tissue depth. Dry needling is not the same as acupuncture. The needle used is similar but the assessment, technique and goals are very different between the two practices.
Trigger point dry needling reduces pain by affecting the local and spinal pathways. Active trigger points have a higher concentration of inflammatory markers, cytokines, neuropeptides and catecholamines. After the needle is inserted these markers have been shown to decrease thus decreasing pain and other symptoms.
The procedure of dry needling can cause muscle soreness, fatigue and some bruising. At times it can be painful, but overall it is a safe procedure. Some other complications that can occur are headaches, dizziness and on occasion some nerve injury. On very rare occasions serious complications like pneumothorax would occur.
There are many research articles with randomized controlled trials and case reports done to show the effectiveness of dry needling: Chronic neck pain (Itoh 2007), Upper trapezeius trigger points (Tsai 2010), Shoulder pain (Ingber 2000, Osborne 2010), Fibromyalgia (Casanueva 2013), Chronic Lower back pain (Furlan 2005, Gunn 1980)
Any of the resources listed or information provided can be provided upon request. If you have any questions regarding dry needling or if you feel you may benefit from it, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Sabina K. Weaver, MSPT, ATC-L