Dry needling was the proverbial silver bullet I was seeking. Over time I had made a great deal of progress in dealing with my myofascial trigger point pain, but I had plateaued. I would feel better for a bit and then slide back. Dry needling was the treatment that made the difference. Although this might be the first time you’ve heard of it, dry needling is being used in increasingly diverse places including the NFL.
What is Dry Needling?
Wikipedia describes dry needling this way:
In the treatment of trigger points for persons with myofascial pain syndrome, dry needling is an invasive procedure in which a filiform needle is inserted into the skin and muscle directly at a myofascial trigger point. A myofascial trigger point consists of multiple contraction knots, which are related to the production and maintenance of the pain cycle. Deep dry needling for treating trigger points was first introduced by Czech physician Karel Lewit in 1979. Lewit had noticed that the success of injections into trigger points in relieving pain was apparently unconnected to the analgesic used.
Proper dry needling of a myofascial trigger point will elicit a local twitch response (LTR), which is an involuntary spinal cord reflex in which the muscle fibers in the taut band of muscle contract. The LTR indicates the proper placement of the needle in a trigger point.
Dry needling is not acupuncture. The principles behind it are different and the use of the needles is different. And as the name says, it is dry. No liquids are injected into the body during dry needling.
Dry needling can be painful. One woman described it as the most painful thing she’s ever loved. For me, some of the needles weren’t painful at all. Some of them required a lot of concentrating and breathing through the pain. You are, after all, putting a needle into a part of your body that is already incredibly irritated and dysfunctional. It does hurt – a lot – sometimes. But the payoff after the recovery period is worth it.
Does Dry Needling Really Work?
Does it really work? I can only share from my own experience. The way my physical therapist described it to me was dry needling can accomplish more in a few minutes than a highly skilled PT can accomplish by hand in twenty minutes. Many of the trigger points are very deep and challenging to manipulate by hand. The needle can reach and work on them much more effectively.
Dry needling is not without its detractors. Some people are highly skeptical. I only know that it worked for me. I had a number of sessions, went back several months later for a few more, and that was it. I still have to get massages, but since completing the dry needling, I’ve never needed the same level of intervention again.
Finding a Dry Needling Practitioner
Physical therapists are most apt to be using dry needling although there are doctors, chiropractors and other health professionals who use the technique. As you can imagine, it takes specialized training so it won’t be available everywhere. However, if you are living with long-term pain that doesn’t seem to respond to traditional treatments, it is definitely worth looking into.
If you would like to see more, here is a video explaining and doing dry needling.