Functional Dry Needling
What is dry needling?
Dry needling is a technique used by a trained physical therapist for the treatment of pain and movement impairments. The technique uses a “dry” needle, one without medication or injection, inserted through the skin into specific areas of the muscle. Other terms commonly used to describe dry needling include trigger point dry needling, and intramuscular manual therapy.
Dry needling involves a thin filiform needle that penetrates the skin and stimulates underlying myofascial trigger points and muscular and connective tissues. The needles are typically smaller than hypodermic needles and are solid rather than hollow with a more rounded tip. The needle allows a physical therapist to target tissues that are not manually palpable.
Why use Dry Needling?
Dry needling, along with other manual therapy techniques, is used with the goal of releasing or inactivating trigger points, a taut band of skeletal muscle located within a larger muscle group, to relieve pain or improve range of motion. Trigger points are hyperirritable spots within a taut band of contractured skeletal muscle fibers that produce local and/or referred pain when stimulated. There are two types of trigger points, latent and active. A latent trigger point is a taut band of skeletal muscle that is only painful upon compression, but does not usually cause pain otherwise. While an active trigger point is a taut band of skeletal muscle that is spontaneously painful. Active trigger points can have referred tenderness, motor dysfunction and an autonomic response. These are what patients usually refer to when they say they have a “trigger spot.”
Trigger points often cause altered muscle activation patterns, thus causing a dysfunctional movement pattern, usually leading to a more painful movement pattern. Preliminary research supports that dry needling improves pain control, reduces muscle tension, and normalizes dysfunctions of the motor end plates, the sites at which nerve impulses are transmitted to muscles. This can help speed up the patient’s return to active rehabilitation.