Bring jabbed with lots of little pricks may not sound overly enjoyable, but dry needling may have some real muscle restoration benefits. Physiotherapist Andrew Ilief explains.
What is dry needling?
Dry needling is ‘Clinical or Western acupuncture’, where sterilised acupuncture needles are inserted into the skin. It differs from an injection which is “wet needling”. Dry needling is used to target and restore muscle function in conjunction with physiotherapy and exercise prescription. There is evidence to show it can be effective in pain reduction, healing and restoration of tissue function.
Is it the same as acupuncture?
No. Aalthough similar, ‘Western acupuncture/dry needing’ is based on Western anatomical and neurophysiological principles, as acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese Medicine.
So how does dry needing work?
A growing body scientific research suggests that the tiny needle triggers signals in the brain which initiates a cascade of events to repair the tissue. There is the reported ‘twitch’ response, whereby a trigger point will twitch in response to stimulation like that provided by the small needle. Once the twitch is elicited, muscle fibres relax and function improves. The ‘how’ behind why dry needling may work is an area of debate and still requires ongoing research.
What should I feel?
A local twitch or contraction may occur. Some patients may feel nauseas or a sense of relaxation. For 24-48 hours afterwards there may some muscle soreness, after all, tissue was damaged by inserting the needle.
Is it safe?
As long as the needle is sterile, yes it is safe. Some clients have suffered pneumothorax; whereby the needle presses the lung. However, this is due to poor technique, and a therapist should weigh up risk/benefit before undertaking such practices close to organs such as the lungs.
Why should I include needling in my recovery?
Needling can be used when treating muscle spasms or imbalances and can useful at the beginning of a treatment plan to break the ‘pain cycle’. Dry needling can be useful in relieving pain, however it does not fully address the problem so a multi-approach treatment plan with your Physiotherapist is required. Some people have reported increased energy, appetite and sleep, but this may be due to the enhanced sense of wellbeing.
Andrew Ilieff has experience across cardio respiratory, rehabilitation, sports physiotherapy and aged care – spending an extensive period of time in private practice. For credible information on training and injury prevention check out Andrew’s Instagram page here and website and services here.