Trigger point pain relief with the dry needle procedure

Dry needling is a procedure involving insertion of thin needles into “trigger points” or knotted areas within muscles that are causing pain over a wide area. Dry needling helps release tight muscles and relieve myofascial trigger point pain as well as increase mobility. Also called trigger point therapy or trigger point dry needling (TDN), it is a modern procedure and is often performed by physical therapists, or by physicians in conjunction with physical therapy.

Benefits of dry needle treatment

Dry needling is different from acupuncture in that acupuncture focuses on the “meridians” or energy lines (chi) of the body whereas dry needling focuses on the trigger points in the muscles and fascia (connective tissue). Studies have shown that inserting a needle into the trigger points produces a “twitch” response or spinal cord reflex and that this can result in changes that lead to pain reduction. The benefits of dry needling include relief from:

  • Shoulder and arm pain, rotator cuff tendinitis
  • Upper back muscular strain
  • Tension headaches
  • Neck pain and radiculopathy (radiating pain down the arms)
  • Buttock and iliotibial band pain
  • Tennis elbow (epicondylitis)
  • Low back pain
  • Calf muscle strain and leg cramps

During the dry needle procedure, you may experience slight discomfort, similar to a cramp or mild electric shock. Once the needles are in, however, most patients experience a comfortable heaviness and relaxation. After a dry needle procedure, you may have some bruising where the needles were inserted. Gentle stretching, and applying heat or ice to the sore area may be helpful, and this should go away after a few days. It may take several visits for you to experience the full benefits of dry needling, depending on your condition and your own body’s response to the therapy. Your doctor will discuss your dry needle treatment plan with you. It may take several visits to produce a cumulative result and lasting pain relief.

Dry needle therapy risks and recovery

Dry needle treatments are not for everyone. Patients who have a fear of needles may not be candidates for this type of procedure. Oftentimes, however, education about the service is helpful and a patient with needle phobia may wish to go ahead with the treatment. Patients with cognitive impairments (memory loss, dementia, mental health disorder) or patients who have vascular disease, including severe varicose veins, should avoid this type of procedure. Your doctor will thoroughly evaluate you and will ask questions to help determine whether or not you might benefit from dry needling.

Dry needle treatment is often done along with physical therapy and other types of manual therapies for maximum pain relief and mobility. Multiple therapies working together often produce the best result. Dry needle therapy should only be performed by a trained professional and should never be tried at home.

To schedule an appointment with an integrative and functional medicine specialist at Main Line Health, call 484.227.7858.