The majority of patients undergoing physical therapy treatment at All-Pro Health will at some point receive Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) as part of their treatment. Being a non-traditional and scarcely utilized therapeutic modality in the physical therapy world, patients tend to have many questions. The purpose of this blog post is to educate you on this procedure and it's benefits.
1. What is TDN?
TDN involves multiple advances of a thin non-medicated filament needle (similar to an acupuncture needle) into the muscle in the area of the body which produces pain and typically contains a 'Trigger Point’. Trigger points, often referred to as muscle or myofascial ‘knots’, are hyperirritable areas in a taut band of muscle which can contribute to dysfunctional movement patters.
2. Is it the same as acupuncture?
The only similarity between acupuncture and dry needling are the needles themselves. TDN is based on anatomy and aims to cause change in dysfunctional soft tissue with the goal of normalizing it’s neurophysiological state. Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin needles through your skin. Traditional Chinese medicine uses acupuncture to balance flow of energy (also known as qi or chi) which are believed to flow through meridians, or pathways, in the body.
3. How does it work?
Based on research studies performed by Dr. Jay Shah at the National Institutes of Health, inserting a needle into the trigger points will elicit a local twitch response", which allows the muscle to release and a positive biochemical change to happen. pH levels are returned to baseline and pain levels are reduced.
4. What is the procedure?
The skin is cleaned with alcohol. Your therapist will be wearing gloves and hand sanitizer will be used in addition. The trigger point is localized by the therapist's fingers while the needle is inserted into it. The needle is 'pistoned' through the trigger point for 4-5 repetitions.
5. Is it painful?
The insertion of the needle itself is not painful. The local twitch that is elicited will trigger a few seconds of discomfort which patients describe as spasming, cramping, or an electrical shock. The pain is short-lived and benefits are long lasting in combination with all other physical therapy treatments.
6. What are the side effects?
A common side effect that patients experience is soreness lasting from a few hours to 2 days.
7. Are there any precautions I should take after the treatment?
Avoid strenuous activity and training. Light activity is encourage after treatment to help with the soreness. This can include gentle walking or stretching. Ice or heat may also be applied over the area that is sore.
Trigger point dry needling is a therapeutic modality that is invaluable in the rehabilitation process and can be used on any part of the body no matter where you injury is. Whether your injury is chronic or acute, traumatic or non-traumatic, dry needling can help. Below is a video demonstrating the procedure: