What Is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is a pain management technique where a provider inserts thin, filiform needles into muscles to release myofascial trigger points. Trigger points, often referred to as "knots" or tender areas of muscles, can be painful at that point or refer pain to other areas. Using needles allows providers to target deep tissues they are not able to reach with other modalities.
How Does It Work?
When you push your muscles to the limit regularly, lactic acid can build up in the muscles to create trigger points, which makes the overworked area sore and painful. By inserting a needle into the trigger point, we stimulate blood flow to increase in the area, which will help wash out the lactic acid built up.
Why Should I Do Dry Needling?
Dry needling offers several benefits including:
- Pain Relief
- Trigger Point Release
- Increased Range of Motion
- Decreased Muscle Tightness
- Improved Neuromuscular Recruitment
- Increased Blood Flow
- Faster Rehabilitation
Will It Hurt?
The needles used are so thin, you usually don't feel them (seriously- Dr. Sam doesn't like needles either and can confirm she didn't even feel most of them). Sometimes when you have an extra tight muscle you'll have a twitch response that will hurt momentarily, then the muscle relaxes. Areas with more nerve endings and less muscle, such as hands, wrists, and feet, tend to be more painful to needle.
Can I Workout After?
The area will be sore after, so it's good to move and stretch a little throughout the day. We have found that clients who work the direct area treated after dry needling (example: deadlifting after low back dry needles or rock climbing after forearm dry needles) are more sore and have a pain flare up. For that reason, we recommend avoiding training the direct area within 12-24hrs of the treatment.
However, if you will be training other muscle groups- such as a leg day after dry needling your shoulders- you should be okay to workout as planned. Feel free to ask your provider during your visit or contact your provider before your appointment if dry needling will interfere with any workouts so we can time your session appropriately.
What Happens During My Dry Needling Treatment?
Your provider will go over your medical history and perform a physical exam to find the trigger points causing your pain. Dress in something that allows us to access the treatment area. If it's the back of your shoulders, a tank top or sports bra is recommended. If you need work on your legs, shorts will be needed.
After you are positioned and the area is sterilized, your provider will palpate the area to locate the trigger point then gently tap the needle into place. Depending on the technique chosen to treat your specific condition, the needles may only be in briefly or for up to 20 minutes. They may use a technique called "pistoning" where the provider moves the needle up and down quickly through the muscle.
Your provider may recommend using e-stim with the needles. E-stim, or electrical stimulation, is a modality that can be used on its own to alleviate pain and stimulate blood flow, commonly used with a TENS unit. We can use this with dry needling by attaching electrodes to the needles after they are placed. By combining these 2 modalities we amplify the effects of both to make sure you walk out of our clinic feeling great.
During the treatment you may feel soreness or twitching , which is normal and indicate your muscles are responding to the treatment. If at any point during your treatment you are uncomfortable and want to stop, let your provider know and we will take out the needles immediately.
After your treatment drink plenty of water to help wash away lactic acid released during the treatment and reduce soreness afterward. Move and stretch the area, but avoid strenuous exercise with the treated area- for example, you shouldn't do a lot of push ups after dry needling the shoulder, but squatting should be okay. You may see some bruising at the area, which could last up to a week. If you are experiencing any other serious side effects such as excessive bleeding or shortness of breath, please call your provider.
What If I Don't Like Needles?
That's okay! While we could try to convince you of all the benefits and tell you how little you feel the needles, we won't try to talk you into something you aren't comfortable with. We have other modalities such as muscle scraping and cupping that achieve a similar effect in a less invasive way.
Email our dry needling provider, Dr. Jose Nieves, DC at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. If you are ready to book your visit, follow the link on our website.