Dry needling is a form of treatment that works well in conjunction with other Osteopathic manual techniques, and is used to target trigger points (knots) in tight muscles. It uses extremely fine acupuncture needles (0.25mm in diameter up to 20X smaller than a normal hypodermic needle), which allows the practitioner to target deep tissues specifically and accurately.
The effect of inserting these needles varies depending upon the desired outcome. Most of the time, we are aiming to deactivate and normalise hypersensitive and overactive muscles. By inserting the needles we may elicit a twitch response from the muscles, providing a release of tightness. It may reduce the excitability of nerves locally as well as in the spinal cord and brain, inhibiting pain sensation and tightness. It may also stimulate an immune response, releasing growth factors and promoting healing. Needling may break fibrotic tissues containing free nerve endings, and wash away irritating substances. Simply put, overall the needles may reduce muscle tightness and pain, thereby enabling better healing.
Regardless of the finer neurophysiological mechanisms, it may be an effective technique for certain conditions such as repetitive strain injuries, acute spasms, chronic myofascial tightness and of course trigger points. It enables the practitioner to target the deep seated stubborn knots that often underlie conditions such as tennis elbow and shin splints.
The needles are never re-used, practitioners wear gloves and the needles are disposed of in a sharps container. All of our osteopaths performing dry needling techniques have additional insurance cover in accordance with our registration requirements. Naturally if you are uncomfortable at any time with the treatment they can be immediately removed and alternative options can be discussed. Also, as a precautionary measure we avoid dry needling patient’s suffering from a bleeding disorder, and during pregnancy (esp first trimester).
As far as the process is concerned, the needles are exceptionally fine, and you often don’t feel anything when they pierce the skin. Once they are pushed deeper it varies, but most of the time we are actively seeking out sore points so yes, naturally it is sensitive, but the sensation is more like a heaviness, or an ache rather than a sharp stab.