Dry needling is a treatment technique used to help resolve soft tissue dysfunction: inflammation, spasm, trigger points, tissue adhesions, microcirculation and edema, and biomechanical balance of the musculoskeletal system.
Dry needling technique is a modern Western medical treatment that is not related to Traditional Chinese acupuncture in any way as it has its own theoretical concepts, terminology, needling technique and clinical application. Modern dry needling evolved from the work of Dr. Janet Travell (former President John F. Kennedy’s personal physician) and Dr. David Simons in the 1940’s who found that specific muscles tend to refer pain in recognizable patterns. For example, when there is an issue with the heart, it will often refer pain to the neck, jaw, and most commonly the left arm. It is the work of these two physicians that led modern day scientists to focus in on the strong relationship between the nervous system and muscular function. Studying the findings of Travell and Simons, and with the help of the National Institute of Health, Dr. Yun-tau Ma was able to synthesize ideas from over 40 years of clinical experience in biomedical acupuncture. It is the work of these pioneers in medicine that helped shape dry needling into its current modern form.
Modern dry needling is a unique procedure that is designed to specifically target and restore muscle function while placing an emphasis on improving tissue healing and restoring normal tissue function. This is very important, as continued activity with poor muscle function will most likely lead to further tissue damage and increased pain.
This modern Western modality can also be a safe means to improve physical performance in athletes by reducing the muscular stress that accumulates in the body with repetitive training. Muscular stress increases the body’s energy consumption and reduces efficiency, thereby negatively affecting physical performance.
Dry needling uses a very fine needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying muscular and connective tissue trigger points in order to manage neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments. A trigger point is described as a taut band of skeletal muscle located within a larger muscle group. Trigger points can be tender to the touch and can refer pain to distant parts of the body. Dry needling is performed with the goal of releasing/inactivating the trigger points and relieving pain. This technique is not limited to the treatment of neck, back, extremity pain or headaches. Additionally, dry needling has been shown to reduce muscle tension and spasm, decrease inflammation / edema, reduce tissue adhesions and facilitate and accelerate return to active rehabilitation.
In summary, dry needling is an effective and safe treatment method that, when combined with conventional treatment options (physical therapy, chiropractic, surgery), can be a powerful method to accelerate healing, reduce pain and maintain-enhance normal tissue function.