What Exactly is Dry Needling?

dry needling at roots physical therapy
Dr. Amy E Smith uses functional dry needling with intramuscular e-stim to improve shoulder mobility and decrease pain

Information to help you understand what it is, how its used, and if it might be right for you!

By now you’ve probably heard a ton about Dry Needling, but are wondering what exactly it is, how its used, and what makes it different from acupuncture. Check out the information below, and if you still have questions, feel free to be in touch!

Dry needling is a technique utilized by specialty trained physical therapists where a thin monofilament needle is inserted directly into the target tissue for one of two reasons:

  1. to treat myofascial trigger points and improve tissue quality and mobility
  2. to facilitate improved communication and signaling to a desired muscle group

These techniques help facilitate optimal myofascial and neuromuscular function and, when used in conjunction with manual therapy and movement re-training, can help to restore balance, mobility, strength and stability throughout our bodies.

  • How is it used?
    • A thin needle is inserted directly into the target tissue. Based on the goals of treatment, your therapist may either work into trigger points or myofascial restrictions in your tissues to elicit a twitch response and facilitate relaxation, or your therapist may place the needle and apply electrical stimulation (intramuscular) to provide input and facilitate a contraction in the desired area.
dry needling at roots physical therapy
Dr. Amy E Smith uses functional dry needling with intramuscular e-stim to improve shoulder mobility and decrease pain
  • What is it used for?
    • To decrease pain, improve tissue quality, improve mobility, decrease trigger points and muscle spasm, and improve muscle firing and efficiency.
  • Does it hurt?
    • Maybe? Some describe it as painful, others say it feels good. The experience of pain and sensation in general are both highly personal and can vary from person to person, muscle to muscle, and day to day. We talk you through the process from start to finish. As with all treatments at Roots, you can choose to stop treatment at any time if you don’t feel completely comfortable.
  • Benefits and Risks
    • Our goal with dry needling is to interrupt the pain cycle, improve tissue quality, tissue mobility, and neuromuscular communication. Benefits include decreased pain, improved mobility, improved muscle function and improved movement mechanics. Risks include acute pain, post-treatment soreness, the potential for mild bleeding. Precautions, risks and benefits will be discussed prior to your first dry needling session!
  • The Difference between Dry Needling and Acupuncture
    • I get asked DAILY if Dry Needling and Acupuncture are the same. The answer is No! The only similarity is the needle used. Dry Needling and Acupuncture are two distinct and unique practices.  Dry needling is a treatment performed by specialty trained physical therapists who are certified in the procedure. A thin monofilament needle penetrates the skin and treats underlying muscular trigger points for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments.

Dry needling is an evidence-based treatment technique rooted in Western medicine. The application of functional dry                      needling is based on the evaluation of pain patterns, trigger points, posture, movement impairments, and neuromuscular function

Acupuncture is based on ancient Chinese medicine, described as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as chi or qi (chee), believed to flow through pathways in your body. By inserting needs into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.

Acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain, and is increasingly being used for overall wellness.

Which is Better for You?
The one that alleviates your pain and improves your well-being.  There is a long history of comparisons and even conflict between the two, just as there has been a history of conflict between PTs and Chiropractors. The reality is that we’re all on the SAME TEAM, offering services to help people feel better and move better without the use of medication or surgery.

Source: the Mayo Clinic

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