Spine Spot Chiropractic




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Dry Needling

Dry Needling near me Basalt, Carbondale, Aspen

Dry Needling

Dry needling is a treatment that healthcare providers use for pain and movement issues associated with myofascial trigger points. With this technique, a provider inserts thin needles into or near your trigger points. The needles stimulate your muscles, which causes them to contract or twitch. This helps relieve pain and improve your range of motion.


What is dry needling?

Dry needling is a technique that acupuncturists, chiropractors,  physical therapists, and other trained healthcare providers use to treat musculoskeletal pain and movement issues. It’s almost always used as part of a larger pain management plan that could include exercise, stretching, massage, and other techniques. During this treatment, a provider inserts thin, sharp needles through your skin to treat underlying myofascial trigger points. Trigger points are knotted, tender areas that develop in your muscles. These trigger points are highly sensitive and can be painful when touched. Sometimes, a trigger point may be near the location of your pain. But they’re also often the cause of referred pain. Referred pain is pain that affects another part of your body. The Doctor uses needles to alleviate your trigger points. When dry needling is applied to your muscles and tissues, it can decrease tightness, increase blood flow, and reduce local and referred pain. Providers use solid needles that don’t contain any kind of medication. This is why the technique is called “dry.” Nothing is injected into your body. Trigger point injections are different. They contain medicine and are performed by a physician. Other names for dry needling are trigger point dry needling and intramuscular stimulation.

How does dry needling work?

When your muscle is overused, it goes into an energy crisis where the muscle fibers aren’t getting an adequate blood supply. When they don’t get the normal blood supply, they don’t get the oxygen and nutrients that allow your muscles to go back to their normal resting state. When this happens, the tissue near your trigger point becomes more acidic. Your nerves are sensitized, which makes the area sore and painful. Stimulating a trigger point with a needle helps draw normal blood supply back to flush out the area and release tension. The prick sensation can also fire off nerve fibers that stimulate your brain to release endorphins, your body’s homemade pain medication.  Once your therapist locates a trigger point, they’ll insert a needle through your skin directly into it. They might move the needle around a little to try to get what’s called a local twitch response — a quick spasm of your muscle. This reaction can be a good sign that your muscle is reacting. Some people feel improvement in their pain and mobility almost immediately after a dry needling session. For others, it takes more than one session.

Does dry needling hurt?

Trigger points are usually painful to the touch. So, before the needling, you may experience some pain while your provider is locating the trigger point. You may also feel discomfort during the needling. Sometimes, people don’t feel the needle going in because it’s so small, but other times, people will feel a prick. When the needle is in the trigger point, it can be painful and cause a twitch response. Afterward, you may feel tightness or soreness near the insertion site, but it’s important to keep moving and stretching.

What does dry needling do?

Dry needling may help relieve pain and increase your range of motion. Conditions that dry needling may treat include:

Who shouldn’t get dry needling treatments?

Certain groups of people shouldn’t receive dry needling. Providers don’t recommend the procedure for children under the age of 12 because it can be painful. You and your child will both need to provide consent, and you should consider other less invasive options first. Other groups who should consult with their physician before receiving dry needling include people who:

  • Are pregnant.
  • Aren’t able to understand the treatment.
  • Are very afraid of needles (trypanophobia).
  • Have compromised immune systems.
  • Have just had surgery.
  • Are on blood thinners.

Procedure Details

What happens before a dry needling treatment?

Before any dry needling treatment, your provider will go over your medical history and perform a physical exam. They need to determine if dry needling is right for you. If they think you’re a candidate, they’ll explain how the treatment works and answer any questions you may have. On the day of your treatment, you should dress comfortably in loose clothing. Wear something that allows your provider to easily access the treatment area. Otherwise, your provider will give you a gown or covering. A provider will take you to a private exam room or a curtained-off section of a larger room. You’ll adjust your clothing as necessary, and they’ll place you in the correct position for your treatment.

What happens during a dry needling treatment?

First, your provider will sterilize the treatment area and prepare the needle. The needles are always single-use, sterile, and disposable. Then, they’ll use one hand or their fingers to feel (palpate) the area to locate the trigger point. With their other hand, they’ll place the needle — surrounded by a plastic guide tube — over the area. The guide tube helps your provider accurately tap the needle into place while working with one hand.

Your provider will gently tap the needle into the top layer of your skin (epidermis) and discard the guide tube. The technique your provider uses may vary. Common dry-needling techniques include:

  • Superficial: Your provider will insert the needle 5 to 10 millimeters into the bottom layer of your skin (subcutaneous tissue) above the trigger point.
  • Deep: Your provider will insert the needle beyond the subcutaneous tissue deep into your muscle to penetrate the trigger point.

Depending on the technique, your provider may leave the needle in place for as short as two seconds to as long as 20 minutes. They may also use the pistoning technique. Also called the in-and-out technique, this method involves your provider quickly moving the needle up and down through the tissue. Your provider may only use one to two needles during your first treatment. Once they see your response to the method, your provider may start using more needles. It depends on your condition. For instance, they may use up to 10 to 15 needles along your spine for a back treatment. During the treatment, you may feel muscle soreness or twitching. These sensations are normal and a sign that your muscles are responding to the treatment.

What happens after a dry needling procedure?

After your dry needling treatment, your provider will remove the needle and examine your skin for any reactions. They’ll dispose of the needle in a medical sharps container. Your provider will then have you get up slowly. If you’re experiencing any dizziness, they’ll have you sit down and rest before leaving the office. After your treatment, make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. You may experience increased muscle soreness after the treatment but it’s important to keep moving. This is normal and may last for 24 to 36 hours. You could see some bruising near the treated area. This bruising may last for up to a week.

Risks / Benefits

What are the benefits of dry needling?

As part of your overall treatment plan, dry needling has many benefits. The procedure is inexpensive and generally considered safe. It carries a low risk of complications if performed by a trained provider. Research shows dry needling can release your trigger points, which may help relieve your muscle pain and stiffness. Releasing your trigger points may also increase your flexibility and improve your range of motion.

What are the potential side effects of dry needling?

The most common side effect of dry needling is soreness during and after treatment. 

Other side effects are typically minor. They may include:

  • Stiffness.
  • Bruising at or near the insertion site.
  • Fainting.
  • Fatigue.

There’s also a risk of infection. It’s important to confirm your provider has received proper training. Serious side effects are extremely rare. However, if you experience bleeding from the insertion site, apply firm pressure and contact your provider or physician. If shortness of breath occurs, contact your provider or physician or call 911 immediately. If the needling was performed in your thoracic area, it could cause a collapsed lung (pneumothorax). This is extremely rare but requires a chest X-ray and further care.

Additional Details

Dry needling vs. acupuncture — what’s the difference?

Dry needling isn’t the same as acupuncture. Both procedures involve penetrating your skin with needles. They use the same type of needles, but that’s where the similarities end. Different providers with different training perform dry needling. Acupuncture is performed by licensed acupuncturists and based in Eastern medicine, while dry needling is based in Western medicine and evaluation of pain patterns, postures, faulty movement patterns, and orthopedic testing. Acupuncture treats musculoskeletal pain but also treats other systems of your body. Dry needling treats muscle tissue to reduce pain, inactivating trigger points, and improving movement. Typically, it’s used as part of a broader physical therapy approach that includes other physical therapy treatments.

Dry Needling is Coming Soon to Spine Spot Chiropractic

More Chiropractic Techniques and Physiotherapies 

Dry Needling: A Comprehensive Guide

Dry needling is a technique used by physical therapists to treat musculoskeletal pain and movement impairments. It involves inserting thin filiform needles into specific points on the body known as trigger points or myofascial trigger points. These needles are the same as those used in acupuncture but the theory and application of dry needling is based on Western medicine principles. This article will delve into the concept of dry needling, its effects and benefits, target areas, integration into treatment plans, as well as the associated risks and considerations.

What is Dry Needling?

Understanding the Concept of Dry Needling

Dry needling, also known as myofascial trigger point dry needling, is a clinical treatment technique that is performed by physical therapists. It involves the use of thin, solid filament needles to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscular, and connective tissues for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments.

Comparison with Traditional Acupuncture

Dry needling is often compared to traditional acupuncture due to the use of similar needles. However, the two techniques differ in their approach. Acupuncture is based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine and aims to restore the flow of energy or Qi, whereas dry needling targets specific muscle trigger points and aims to relieve pain and improve range of motion.

How Physical Therapists Utilize Dry Needling

Physical therapists use dry needling as part of a comprehensive treatment plan to relieve pain, improve function, and facilitate rehabilitation. It is often integrated with other physical therapy modalities to address musculoskeletal conditions and myofascial pain syndromes.

Effects and Benefits of Dry Needling

Exploring the Physiological Effects of Dry Needling

Dry needling stimulates the body's natural healing processes by promoting blood flow, releasing muscle tension, and reducing pain. This can lead to improved muscle function and range of motion, making it an effective treatment for musculoskeletal pain and movement disorders.

Benefits of Dry Needling for Musculoskeletal Pain

Dry needling has been found to be beneficial for various musculoskeletal pain conditions including lower back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, and knee pain. It can help relieve muscle spasms and referred pain, leading to enhanced mobility and functional improvement.

How Dry Needling Complements Physical Therapy

When used in conjunction with physical therapy, dry needling can enhance the effectiveness of treatment by addressing trigger points and myofascial pain. It can help reduce pain levels, improve muscle activation patterns, and accelerate the rehabilitation process.

Target Areas for Dry Needling

Understanding Trigger Point Dry Needling

Trigger point dry needling focuses on identifying and targeting hyperirritable nodules within a taut band of skeletal muscle. By inserting a needle directly into these trigger points, physical therapists aim to release muscle tension and alleviate pain.

Application of Superficial Dry Needling

Superficial dry needling involves the insertion of needles into superficial layers of the skin and underlying tissues, targeting sensory nerves and neurovascular structures. This technique may be used to address pain and dysfunction in areas closer to the body's surface.

Non-Trigger Point Dry Needling: Uses and Considerations

In addition to trigger points, dry needling can also be applied to non-trigger point areas to modulate pain, improve muscle function, and promote overall musculoskeletal wellness. It is important for practitioners to consider the specific needs and responses of each individual when performing non-trigger point dry needling.

Integrating Dry Needling in Treatment Plans

Addressing Myofascial Pain Syndrome through Dry Needling

Dry needling plays a crucial role in the management of myofascial pain syndrome, a chronic condition characterized by localized muscle pain, tenderness, and limited range of motion. By targeting trigger points, dry needling can help alleviate pain and restore muscle function in individuals with this condition.

Relieving Low Back Pain with Dry Needling

Studies have shown that dry needling can provide relief for individuals suffering from low back pain, a common musculoskeletal complaint. The application of trigger point dry needling in the lumbar region has been found to significantly reduce pain and improve functional outcomes.

Range of Motion Improvement with Trigger Point Dry Needling

Trigger point dry needling has been associated with improvements in range of motion, flexibility, and muscle activation patterns. By targeting specific trigger points, physical therapists can help individuals regain mobility and restore optimal movement patterns.

Risks and Considerations with Dry Needling

Potential Adverse Effects and How to Mitigate Them

While dry needling is generally safe, there are potential risks such as bruising, soreness, and very rarely pneumothorax or nerve injury. Proper training, adherence to safety guidelines, and thorough patient assessment can help mitigate these risks and ensure safe and effective treatment.

Understanding the Role of Stimulation in Dry Needling

Dry needling may involve the use of electrical stimulation in conjunction with needles to enhance the therapeutic effects. This stimulation can modulate pain perception, promote tissue healing, and facilitate muscle relaxation, contributing to the overall effectiveness of the treatment.

Distinguishing Between Acupuncture and Dry Needling

It is important to distinguish between acupuncture and dry needling, as they are based on different theoretical frameworks and have distinct treatment goals. Acupuncture is deeply rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine, focusing on restoring balance to the body's energy flow, while dry needling targets specific muscular and neurophysiological mechanisms to address pain and dysfunction.

Dr. James Fraser

Doctor of Chiropractic