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How Dry Needle Therapy Can Help with Your Everyday Aches and Pains

by | Jun 8, 2022 | Physical Therapy

Dry needling is one of the many pain management therapies we use at Odom Health and Wellness. It can be an effective tool for reducing muscle aches due to injury, strain or age. We’ll explain what it is and why dry needling works. 

If you’re curious about dry needling for back pain, neck pain or other issues, contact our clinic today. We’d love to assess your pain and help you feel better.

What is dry needling? Dry needles in a patient's ankle with electrical wires connected.

Dry needling is the insertion of a monofilament needle into a muscle with the goal of relieving pain and tightness. With dry needling, there is no injection of any solution – that is called wet needling. 

There are many different dry needling techniques. Trigger point dry needling is when a physical therapist “pistons” the needle by gently moving it in the muscle to remove trigger points or “knots”. The lifting and pushing motion stimulates the muscle and allows it to release.

We can also attach an electric stimulation unit that sends a current through the needles. This produces the same electric stimulation feeling that is popular in physical therapy and chiropractic offices. 

Depending on your injury and muscle pain, your practitioner may either perform the pistoning technique mentioned above or leave the needle in the muscle, to help the muscle relax. We customize our dry needling physical therapy to your specific needs.

When Did Dry Needling Start?

Dry needling has been widely used since the 1980’s in America and has become more popular over the last 10 years. At Odom health and wellness, our providers have been using dry needling for many years to help our patients achieve their goals. Dry needling is an effective addition to traditional physical therapy practices, and more and more we see people experience success with their treatment. 

What is the difference between dry needling vs acupuncture?

In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is used to help the flow of “Qi” and energy in the body. Needles are strategically placed to open pathways for this energy to flow.  Dry needling, in contrast, is rooted in western medicine, and the needle is placed directly in or around an area of discomfort or pain. 

For example: if a patient comes in seeking dry needling for shoulder pain, the therapist will put the needles around the shoulder itself. An acupuncturist on the other hand can place the needle anywhere in the body to treat the shoulder pain. They usually follow what are called meridian lines. Though both dry needling and acupuncture use the same needles, the theory behind the needle placement is different. 

How Does Dry Needling Work on Tight Muscles?

A therapist performing dry needling for back pain.Everyone has felt some sort of muscle tightness. Whether it’s feeling a “knot” in your shoulders or having a “kink” in your neck from sleeping wrong, you know when your muscles feel tight or restricted. We currently do not know what causes tight muscles, but we do know what happens in a tight muscle. 

When a muscle tightens, it becomes acidic and hypoxic. Your body releases substance P, and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) which are both neurotransmitters. All this eventually leads to more sensitive nerve endings and that feeling of rice, or a taught guitar string when you run your hand over the affected muscle. 

Dry needling stimulates mechanical receptors in your body and helps to get rid of the substance P and CGRP. After dry needling, you’ll feel less tension in your muscles and the muscles itself will not feel as tight. Common areas that people see remarkable success include dry needling for tennis elbow, neck pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, knee pain, and lower leg pain.

Does dry needling hurt?

You’ll probably experience a low-level stimulus similar to the level of pain that is bringing you in for treatment. With the needle being as thin as it is, if you were to apply it to an area without pain or dysfunction, you wouldn’t likely feel it at all. 

Bearing this in mind, when you do feel some familiar pain with dry needling it, in essence, informs you that the delivery of the treatment is accurate. After the initial experience, we see that patients are more than happy to experience the minimal discomfort for the large improvements post-treatment. The dry needling benefits outweigh the short term discomfort. 

Dry Needling and Physical Therapy at Odom Health & WellnessA doctor discusses dry needling for neck pain with his patient.

When you begin physical therapy as a new patient, your first visit is an initial examination. During your exam the therapist will assess the area of pain or discomfort by using orthopedic tests and by checking your range of motion and strength. Once your therapist concludes what the cause your pain is, they will create a plan to help alleviate and treat it. 

Odom’s therapists are trained in a variety of healing techniques including dry needling. During your initial and follow-up scheduled therapy sessions, our PT’s will use manual therapy techniques such as stretching, massage and exercises to help strengthen the targeted area. If your therapist determines that dry needling is the right fit for your pain, they can add it to your scheduled PT session. 

Learn More About Dry Needling for Your Pain

For more questions or to get started working on your recovery, call Odom’s wellness clinic or fill out an appointment request today. We’d love to meet you and create a program that addresses your unique pain symptoms.