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Dry Needling

Muscle Pain | Spasms | Pain Relief

What is Dry Needling

Dry needling is a technique physical therapists use to treat pain. The technique uses a “dry” needle, one without medication or injection, inserted through the skin into areas of the muscle, known as trigger points.

Dry needling is not acupuncture, a practice based on traditional Chinese medicine and performed by acupuncturists. A complete acupuncture treatment might yield a holistic benefit not available through a limited needling treatment. It is a part of modern Western medicine principles and supported by research

Dry needling, also known as myofascial trigger point dry needling, is an alternative medicine technique similar to acupuncture. Dry needling is sometimes also known as intramuscular stimulation.

What Pain Can Dry Needling Address?

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Dry needling is almost always used as a part of an overall plan that will likely include some type of exercise, manual therapy, heat therapy, and education. Dry needling is used to increase range of motion that may be limited due to muscle tightness or scar tissue. Dry needling may also treat:

  • Joint problems
  • Disk problems
  • Tendinitis
  • Migraine and tension-type headaches
  • Jaw and mouth problems (such as temporomandibular joint disorders or TMD)
  • Whiplash
  • Repetitive motion disorders (like carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Spinal problems
  • Pelvic pain
  • Night cramps
  • Phantom pain
  • Post-herpetic neuralgia (pain left behind by shingles)

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Trigger Point FAQs

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A trigger point is a taut band of skeletal muscle located within a larger muscle group. Trigger points can be tender to the touch, as a result touching a trigger point may cause pain to other parts of the body. Hence, the term “referred pain”.
Dry needling involves a sterile thin needle that penetrates the skin and as a result stimulates underlying trigger points, muscular and connective tissues. The needle allows a physical therapist to target tissues that are deeper and not manually palpable. Our doctors always wear gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when dry needling, consistent with Standard Precautions, Guide to Infection Prevention for Outpatient Settings, and OSHA standards. The sterile needles are disposed of in a medical sharps collector.
Dry needling works the best when used in conjunction with other treatment services. Our doctors will perform dry needling first followed by manual therapy and then strengthening/mobilization exercises. Physical therapists use this technique with the goal of releasing or inactivating trigger points to relieve pain or improve range of motion. This can improve recovery time and help the patient’s return to active rehabilitation.
Conditions that dry-needling can help to improve include, but are not limited to, TMJ, Headaches, Neck Pain, Whiplash, Tennis Elbow, Carpal Tunnel, Lower Back Pain, Sciatica, Bursitis, Knee Pain, Pirformis Syndrome, Achilles Tendinitis, Plantar Fasciitis, and more.
Most people do not feel the insertion of the needles, unless it is in more sensitive areas. If they do feel them, the needle is immediately removed. Many patients find the procedure so relaxing that they fall asleep.
Most patients do not experience any side effects. In some cases the treated area can be sore for 24-48hrs. The soreness is very tolerable and easily minimized with cold/heat and stretching. Drowsiness, tiredness or dizziness occur after treatment in a small number of patients (1-3%). Minor bleeding or bruising occurs in 15-20% of treatments, but is often painless.
For some patients, the effect is immediate, with an increase in motion and decrease in pain and inflammation. Others experience these positive results the next day. Typically, it takes a few sessions for a lasting positive effect. Dry Needling causes a mechanical, biomechanical, and neurological change without any pharmacological means. We are looking for a cumulative response to deactivate the muscle spasms, disrupt pain and restore optimal function.
You will need a Physician Referral to undergo Dry Needling in the state of Virginia. For existing patients, our front office staff will assist you with this process if you need an active referral.
  • Pregnant women
  • People who are not able to understand the treatment
  • People who are very afraid of needles

Any patient who is considering dry needling should consult his or her doctor first. This is particularly true for people taking blood thinners and people who are only recently recovering from surgery.

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