What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is commonly used by an extensive list of health professionals – most commonly by podiatrists and physiotherapists. Given that the name dry needling sounds very painful, a lot of clients are apprehensive to try the treatment due to being unsure what dry needling actually entails.   Dry needling is a lot less painful than having a blood test or injection we believe. The type of needle used in this treatment is a single use sterile acupuncture needle that gets inserted into a muscle trigger points. By inserting a dry needle (also known as an acupuncture needle) into a muscular trigger point it helps to reduce pain, improve blood flow by producing a local twitch response to relieve the muscle.

This blog will help you to better understand everything involved in dry needling and to discuss the aim of so next time it is recommended you may be more willing to try it!

What is the Difference Between Dry Needling and Acupuncture?

So you may have heard of acupuncture and dry needling but unsure what the actual difference is between the two? 

Acupuncture arises from traditional chinese medicine which  focuses on the body’s channel and flow of energy balance by unblocking meridian pathways throughout the body. This is done through the use of specific points in the pathway channel and placing the needles in a precise location of the blockage.  Such areas where this is effective can include the hand for a foot or leg related injury and works by allowing free flow of energy through the body creating  balance of Yin and Yang. 

Dry needling focuses on muscular trigger points that cause restriction in movement and or pain. When performing dry needling a small fine needle is inserted into the palpated trigger point within the muscle.  The needle itself is very thin, no thicker than a hair strand and inserted deep into the muscle leading to a localised twitch response. 

What is a Myofascial Trigger Point?

We have all heard of a knot within a muscle; this is the layman term for a trigger point. What actually is a trigger point or a “knot” within the muscle? It refers to a localised hyperirritability within a muscle that is caused by a chronic overload or injury within the muscle.  Myofascial trigger points are tender to touch and feel like a small lump within the muscle tissue. These trigger points can cause referred pain and are tender when pushed on. 

How Does Dry Needling Work?

So why is a myofascial trigger point important to dry needling you may ask? 

When performing trigger point dry needling, it is important that we find the myofascial trigger point within the muscle and insert the Dry needle into that specific spot. This is important to elicit a twitch response; this can feel like a small electric shock within the muscle. This changes the state of muscle tension which in turn leads to elongation of the muscle. 

What Does Dry Needling Do?

We know how it works but what is actually happening within the muscle to cause the elongation and release of the trigger point?

When the needle is inserted in the myofascial trigger point it induces the increase of blood flow to the localised area. This increase in blood to the muscle not only helps to relax and elongate the muscle fibers but also increases oxygen and nutrient stores to the muscle allowing for healing and loosening of the muscle. 

What Causes a Myofascial Trigger Point?

We now know what a Myofascial trigger point is, how it is released, but what actually causes these Muscle trigger points within the muscle?

  • Immobilisation of the muscle: Keeping the muscle in the same position for a length of time, this can be prolonged sitting, standing or immobilisation through the use of a device (e.g. Cam-Walker). 
  • Increase in activity: When we increase the type of activity we are doing, whether this is an increase in load or starting a new activity or movement completely. The muscle isn’t used to the load being placed through it and contracts and shortens to adapt and as a direct result can lead to myofascial trigger points happening within the muscle.  Increase can in activity can be anything from walking, gardening and new workout routine. 
  • Injury: A myofascial trigger point can occur in response to an injury, nerve impingement or trauma to the muscle itself, as muscle will tighten and shorten in an attempt to reduce the severity of an injury. 
  • Body’s protective response: this can be related to stress, illness, nutritional deficiencies or medical conditions. 

When Is Dry Needling Treatment Recommended?

Dry needling can be recommended with many muscle and tendon injuries. We find that dry needling can be useful in treatment with:

  • Plantar heel pain
  • Achilles pain 
  • Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
  • Knee pain 
  • Hip pain 
  • Nerve pain in the foot
  • Muscle injuries to the foot 
  • Assist in reduction of pain with an injury
  • To increase range of motion and movement of a muscle. 

Our health professional can help decide if this treatment is right for you and your injury.

What Will You Feel During Dry Needling Treatment?

Some people are quite apprehensive to try dry needling as they feel it will be painful, sore or due to a general fear of needles, so we are here to let you know what to expect and how it will feel. 

 When the needle itself is put into the muscle it can feel like a small pin prick and most people don’t feel it enter the muscle.The good thing is during dry needling you may feel a slight discomfort as the trigger point is being released and this can feel like a small cramp or some people report as muscle twitching. This sensation is short lasting and a sense of relief after this twitch is generally felt. The Local twitch response in an involuntary movement with the muscle with the trigger point is released.  The twitch response has been shown to reduce pain, increase range of motion.

What are the Side Effects of Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a fairly safe treatment however, just like any treatment it can have some side effects. 

  • The most common side effect is an increase in muscle soreness for 24-72 hours after treatment- however we will educate you on how to reduce this soreness. 
  • Bruising can also occur but is uncommon, this generally only affects about 10% of individuals who have dry needling 
  • Skin reaction – small red bumps may occur around the needle insertion point and can be tender 
  • Feeling faint or dizzy

Is Dry Needling Safe?

When performing Dry Needling at Foot Centre Group/Pillar Health, we take all precautions to ensure that dry needling is as safe as possible for you and our practitioners. This includes the use of:

  • Disposable gloves to be used when placing needle into tissue, when moving them and removing from site
  • Single use Sterile needles that are disposed in a sharps bin immediately after removing from the muscle. 

Can You Exercise After Dry Needling?

A lot of our clients want to know if they can exercise after trigger point dry needling, the answer is yes however, we only recommend light activity this being:

  • A gentle short walk 
  • Swim
  • Gentle bike/ cycle session
  • Prescribed strength and conditioning by your treating podiatrist 

Another recommendation post dry needling is the use of a heat pack, long pants and keeping the area warm where dry needling was performed.

Many of our Podiatrists have undergone additional training in dry needling and are qualified to deliver trigger point dry needling to the lower limb and foot. 

Want to see a podiatrist for dry needling?

Make an appointment by booking HERE or by calling our Moorabbin clinic at 03 9553 0044, Edithvale at 03 9772 9579 and Malvern East at 03 9021 2067.

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