Dry Needling: What It Is and What It Can Do For You
Dry needling sometimes referred to as intramuscular stimulation (IMS), is a skilled technique performed by a specially trained physiotherapist. It can be used as an option to treat a variety of injuries and conditions.
How is Dry Needling Performed?
Dry needling involves inserting thin needles into the muscles in order to stimulate the release of trigger points, which can often be a source of pain. The treatments are carried out by physiotherapists who have received special training in dry needling techniques, as part of their continuing education after graduation.
The needle used is a very thin filament, solid needle, much smaller than a hypodermic needle. It is applied in a way that affects changes in the muscle’s characteristics, such as resting tone and chemistry. During the treatment, the practitioner inserts the needle into the dysfunctional muscle, which often creates a localized “twitch” response. While dry needling may initially cause some discomfort, most patients report significant relief after just a few treatments.
What can Dry Needling Treat?
Dry needling has been found to be helpful in treating conditions such as:
- chronic back pain
- neck pain
- hip pain
- shoulder pain
- tennis elbow
- tension headaches
- migraine headaches
- plantar fasciitis
- low back pain
- patellar tendinopathy
- sports injuries
- carpal tunnel syndrome
How Effective is Dry Needling Treatment?
Dry needling is an effective treatment for a variety of conditions and can provide significant relief from pain and tension. Dry needling is a type of physiotherapy that uses needles to target trigger points in the muscles. These trigger points are responsible for the development of pain and tension in the muscle. By targeting and releasing these trigger points, dry needling can help to relieve pain and tension.
While the effects of the needling on its own may not be permanent, your physiotherapist will give you tools such as exercises and education on biomechanics, that can assist with long-term improvements. If needling can be seen as a way to “reset” the muscle, your exercises and modification of activities, are there to retrain your muscle on how to function properly.
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What does Dry Needling feel like?
During the treatment, there can be a brief sensation of aching or cramping. Because the needle is so thin, it doesn’t usually feel sharp the way drawing blood or having an injection can. Following treatment it is normal to have some discomfort for the day, however, this is typically described as being similar to the sensation following a good workout. Your pain from your injury should NOT increase, in fact, it often feels BETTER!
Is there anyone that shouldn’t get needled?
There are some injuries and some people who would not be appropriate for needling. This may depend on the type of injury if there has been recent surgery in the area, health conditions or medications. This is part of why your physiotherapist asks you medical-related questions or has you fill out an intake form. Prior to needling, they will ask you questions to ensure you are a good candidate.
While dry needling is not appropriate for everyone, it can be a very effective treatment for many people. If you are suffering from chronic pain or another condition that has not responded to other treatments, speak with your physiotherapist to discuss if needling could be right for you.
What do I have to do to prepare before getting dry needling?
Being informed is the best preparation – and you’ve already accomplished that step by being here! Because the practitioner will need access to the skin of the treatment area – it is not safe to go through clothing as the needle will no longer be sterile – wearing comfortable clothing that exposes the area being treated is recommended. This may mean a sleeveless top if working with the shoulder or bringing shorts if working with the leg for example.
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What is the difference between Dry Needling or IMS and Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is based on the traditional Chinese medicine meridians or energy channels, whereas Dry Needling targets the muscles and the myofascial trigger points. Both utilize the same type of needle, and some physiotherapists are able to provide both styles of needling, though IMS style needling is more common to see in a physio clinic.
Can I still work or play after getting IMS/ Dry Needling?
Definitely! In fact, “life as usual” is often the name of the game. Keeping moving is very helpful for decreasing post-treatment soreness – but maybe don’t do your biggest and heaviest day at the gym that day! Not all movements are made the same, so your physiotherapist will let you know what you can do or what you should avoid that day. It is best however to plan your first time being needled on the same day as a big event, such as a sports competition or big race.
Is there a minimum or maximum age for needling?
The short answer is “no”, but it really depends on the individual. Informed consent is important for any treatment technique, so it’s important that the person receiving the treatment is able to understand the risks, and benefits, and to make an informed decision for themselves on whether it is a technique they wish to try.
Kelowna’s Affinity Wellness and the team of physiotherapists are proud to offer dry needling services to our clients.
If you are suffering from pain or discomfort or any of these conditions, you may want to consider booking an appointment with one of our physiotherapists who offers dry needling services. Both Ty and Tess will perform a thorough assessment and listen to your concerns and teach you ways to improve your movement patterns. By learning to move better we can avoid creating more issues in the future and reduce the current dysfunction.
Contact us today to book an appointment.