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Dry Needling – How Does It Work?

By February 15, 2023Physiotherapy

Dry needling has been growing in popularity for a long time for its pain-relieving abilities. Dry needling can be used as one type of manual therapy, like soft tissue release or joint mobilisation, and will often form part of a larger management plan.

During dry needling, a practitioner will insert multiple fine, short, stainless steels needles into a patient’s skin and muscle. The needling is considered ‘dry’ because no fluid is withdrawn from, or injected into, the tissue. Unlike acupuncture where the needles are inserted into designated points of the body, dry needles will be inserted into myofascial trigger points, which are different for each person. Myofascial trigger points are hyperirritable spots of skeletal muscle that can be sensitive to the touch. To increase the intensity of the treatment, practitioners may ‘wind the needle up’ while it is resting in the tissue or remove the needle slightly and re-insert it at varying angles, termed ‘pitoning’ or ‘pecking’.

Dry needling has been proposed to cause multiple changes to the targeted tissue. When the needles are inserted into the tissue, they can illicit what we a call a ‘local twitch response’. This is an involuntary reflex of the localised muscle fibres and can cause a change in the length and tension of the muscle fibres and provide pain relief. Dry needling has also been proposed to increase blood flow to the muscles. When the needle is inserted into the tissue, it causes the blood vessels to become dilated which increases the oxygenation levels of the tissue. This in turn promotes recovery and provides symptom relief.

Dry needling is mostly comfortable, however some patients can find the muscle twitching slightly unpleasant. It is common for minor bleeding, bruising and temporary tenderness to appear around the treatment site after needling.

As mentioned above, dry needling can be effective for short term symptom relief and is another tool in a physiotherapist’s toolbox. However, it should always be used as part of a robust management plan, which includes exercise-based therapy. If you are interested in receiving dry needling as part of your treatment, please call Bend + Mend and we will be able to arrange an appointment with the right Physiotherapist.

Alle Foster

Alle completed a Bachelor of Physiotherapy at the University of South Australia and relocated to Sydney from Adelaide in 2023. Alle has a keen interest in Women’s Health, including pregnancy and postnatal care and pelvic floor dysfunction and has completed further study in this area. Alle has also completed post-graduate studies in osteoarthritic care through the GLAD (Good Living with Osteoarthritis) Program and enjoys applying this knowledge to patients suffering from osteoarthritic knee and hip pain. Alle adopts a biopsychosocial approach to her management and ensures no stone is left unturned in the management of her patients. She uses a combination of manual therapy including massage and dry needling for short term symptom relief and exercise to facilitate long term results. Alle has completed further training in clinical reformer Pilates and applies these principles when treating her patients, in both an individual and class setting.

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