Despite the scary name, dry needling is actually a powerful tool in the physical therapist’s arsenal to help reduce muscle pain and tension. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly common in PT practices across the country.
A trigger point is a small area of tight knotted muscles that creates protective spasms and pinches nerves. These tight muscles can cause a chain reaction that causes pain and limits mobility, which in turn can contribute to degenerative conditions such as arthritis. Dry needling breaks this cycle of tight muscles and pain by placing a needle into the muscle at the spot of the trigger point to help release it.
Your provider will sterilize the treatment area and prepare a sterile, single-use, disposable needle. They will use one hand to feel (palpate) the area of your body where they are going to place the needle. Then they will insert the needle, which is surrounded by a plastic guide tube to keep it from breaking or sticking in the muscle. Once they have inserted the needle, they will manually or electrically stimulate it. The sensation you experience is called a “twitch response,” which is a good sign that the muscles are responding to the treatment. Some patients may experience muscle soreness after the procedure, which can be reduced by applying heat or ice to the affected area.
Adding dry needling to your physical therapy treatment helps speed up the recovery process. We incorporate it into a comprehensive program that includes manual soft tissue mobilization, neuromuscular re-education and therapeutic exercise. The goal is to get you moving again, rebuild your strength and increase range of motion in your joints.