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Updated: May 8, 2023

Dry needling is a treatment technique used by physical therapists such as physiotherapists, osteopaths and myotherapists, to treat some common injuries or complaints. A fine acupuncture needle is inserted through the skin and into the muscle tissue below, aiming for the muscle trigger points.

Dry Needling can help with conditions such as

  • Sporting injuries

  • Neck and back pain

  • Shin splints

  • Muscle tightness

  • Rotator cuff tears

  • Headaches

  • Sciatica

Dry Needling v Acupuncture

Dry needling is based on western medicine with needles typically placed in muscle trigger points/areas of soreness with gentle manipulation of the needle to facilitate a muscular twitch. Acupuncture is based on ancient Asian medicine (e.g. Chinese, Korean, Japanese) and uses meridian theory to treat the whole or parts of the body. Acupuncture points are mapped all over the body along meridian lines, and point selection is based up these specific points and lines. Acupuncture may also use a dry needling type approach to manage tender points, or 'ashi' points that are not mapped acupuncture points. Both approaches are quite different but do use the same needles.

How does it work?

There are a few theories on how this works. One is based on motor neurons getting stuck in a feedback loop causing muscle spasm. It's thought the new stimulus breaks this cycle and reduces muscle spasm.

The other theory that inserting a needle into a muscle trigger point causes a micro trauma which increases blood flow which results in muscle relaxation.

Research has found that the insertion of needles into trigger points/acupuncture points stimulates the body to release feel good and pain relieving chemicals such as endorphins and encephalins. Traditional acupuncture theory suggests a blockage of energy flow/blood flow along a meridian may manifest as pain, injury or disease - use of needles along the relevant meridian helps the energy/blood to flow again, relieving the complaint.

Will it hurt?

No generally it doesn't hurt. You may feel a slight 'prick' when it is inserted. Having said that some areas are more sensitive than others.

If you think dry needling or acupuncture might help you, many of our physiotherapists, osteopaths and myotherapists are qualified in this skill. Physiotherapist Kristine Miles, is qualified in musculoskeletel acupuncture.

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