How does Dry Needling work?

Ditchfield Dry Needling

Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture

Dry needling is a broad term used to differentiate ‘non injection’ needling from the practice of ‘injection needling’ which involves a hollow bore hypodermic needle to deliver an agent such as saline, local anesthetic, and corticosteroid into the tissue. In contrast to this, dry needling uses a solid, filament needle, as used in the practice of acupuncture, and relies on the stimulation of specific reactions in the target tissue for its therapeutic effect.The objectives and philosophy behind the use of dry needling by physical therapists is not based on traditional Chinese medicine. The performance of modern dry needling by physical therapists is based on western neuroanatomy and modern scientific study of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems.

Acupuncture on the other hand is the needling of predetermined points on meridians on the body to boost, harmonize and remove blockages in the flow of energy(chi) throughout the body. It is one part of the vast system of healing called Traditional Chine Medicine.

Although they might seem to have many similarities, acupuncture and dry needling are two very different treatments. Dry Needling achieves pain relief by inactivating trigger points resulting in muscle relaxation due to the release of shortened bands of muscle fibers.

Both Dry Needling and Acupuncture do, however, use the same tool; a solid needle filament.

How Dry Needling Improves Function and Reduces Pain

1. Dry Needling of muscular trigger points causes relaxation through disruption of the motor endplate.

2. Tiny injuries created by the needle insertion cause a local healing response in the dysfunctional, painful tissue, which restores normal function through the natural healing process.

3. Dry needling stimulates neural pathways which blocks pain by disrupting pain messages being sent to the central nervous system. The pain control process occurs by:
a. Opioid suppression at the spinal cord level
b. The Gate Theory of pain
c. Activating neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, which contribute to a systemic pain inhibiting effect, and this neurotransmitter response extends the therapeutic benefit to other areas of the body.

4. Dry Needling causes a local chemically mediated response through the release of Bradykinin, SUbstance P, and other body proteins and neurotransitters, which block the transmission of pain messages.