Physiotherapists are increasingly using dry needling techniques (a fusion of traditional Eastern methods and Trigger Point therapy) to compliment manual therapies when treating a range of musculoskeletal conditions. Thin acupuncture needles are inserted into pain or dysfunction-causing anomalies in the tissue to restore normal tissue physiology.
Needling can reduce pain and muscle tightness, and improve function in those suffering from acute and chronic conditions such as back and neck pain, muscle strains and joint sprains. Whilst traditional acupuncture relies on specific points and meridians, dry needling addresses movement dysfunction beyond the immediate sources of pain, and has been shown to reduce inflammation, increase blood flow, enhance scar tissue breakdown, and stimulate tissue remodelling. It can be particularly useful in the relief of symptoms associated with sustained or repetitive postures such as sport or exercise, or sitting at a desk or computer.
Our Physios have undertaken postgraduate study in different types of dry needling. Like all treatments, different injuries call for different approaches to needling – there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. The most common method used for a range of musculoskeletal conditions is trigger point needling.
A trigger point (TP) is defined as “a hyperirritable spot in skeletal muscle that is associated with a hypersensitive palpable taut band”. A TP is exquisitely tender and can give rise to distinctive pain referral patterns and motor dysfunction. Muscles with a TP appear weak, and are often associated with reduced range of motion or sensitivity to stretch. When needled it will exhibit a local twitch response and/or pain referral in the same pattern you have presented with, this is a positive response and can mean the TP could have been responsible for your pain.
Trigger points can occur due to many factors, some including: muscular strain, nerve impingement, overuse, poor posture, fatigue, mental/emotional stress, incorrect breathing patterns and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Once the trigger point has been needled it essentially “resets” the muscle and provides the opportunity, in conjunction with other manual techniques and exercise therapy, to re-establish motor programming and restore normal function within the region.