Dry needling, or trigger point dry needling, is a soft tissue manipulation technique used by physical therapists and other health care professionals to reduce musculoskeletal pain and improve range of motion issues associated with myofascial trigger points.
Though anyone with a soft-tissue injury could benefit from this revolutionary therapy, it’s particularly effective for patients with chronic or long-term pain that hasn’t improved with other pain management solutions.
Here’s what you should know about trigger point dry needling, including conditions it can address, what to expect during and after a treatment session, and which patients benefit most from this cutting-edge technique. Find out what makes SPARK Physiotherapy the premier destination for dry needling in the Alexandria, Old Town, Great Falls, Fairfax, Arlington, McLean, Northern Virginia, and the DC Metro areas.
What to Know About Dry Needling
This increasingly popular treatment uses solid filament needles to access and manipulate muscle knots and myofascial trigger points—hypersensitive areas within taut bands of skeletal muscle. Palpable as nodules, these trigger points can cause localized pain and refer pain to other parts of the body.
Dry needling harnesses your nervous system’s healing power to disrupt and decrease local and referred pain patterns. Studies conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggest this is due to favorable biochemical changes and local twitch responses the treatment can produce.
At SPARK Physiotherapy, we use dry needling with other manual techniques to address wide-ranging musculoskeletal conditions. We’ve found it to be particularly effective for patients suffering from:
- Chronic headaches
- Neck, shoulder, and arm pain
- Referred leg pain
- Repetitive movement disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
What to Expect During and After Trigger Point Dry Needling
Our experienced physical therapy and dry needling specialist team will clean the treatment area and feel around to locate the trigger point nodule. Once found, we insert a sterile, single-use solid filament needle into the skin and muscle at—or near—the painful trigger point site.
Wait, isn’t that just acupuncture?
No. Though dry needling and acupuncture involve penetrating the skin with solid filament needles, that’s where the similarities end. Acupuncture is based on ancient Eastern medicine and involves inserting needles along meridian lines to restore balance and proper energy flow, while trigger point dry needling is a Western medicine technique that places needles in tight muscles and trigger points to relieve pain and tension.
Is it painful? How deep do you insert the needles? How long do they stay in?
There are two main dry-needling methods:
- Superficial. Which involves gently tapping the needle 5 to 10 millimeters into the subcutaneous tissue just above the trigger point
- Deep. Which involves inserting the needle past the subcutaneous tissue and into the muscle to penetrate the trigger point itself
How long the therapeutic needles stay in ranges from seconds to 20 minutes or more, depending on your needs and the method used. Though pain response varies from patient to patient, most patients don’t feel the initial insertion but may experience muscle soreness, twitching, or cramping. Post-treatment soreness can last for up to 36 hours.
Why haven’t my physical therapy sessions at other clinics included dry needling?
For PT professionals, mastering trigger point dry needling requires extensive education, training, practice, and skill. Additionally, the treatments involve working one-on-one with patients to provide personalized care and promote an optimal therapeutic outcome. Volume-based physical therapy practices typically lack adequately trained staff or are simply too busy to offer advanced services, regardless of their efficacy.
Our highly skilled movement specialists are committed to exceeding your physiotherapy expectations.
Discover the SPARK Physiotherapy Difference
SPARK Physiotherapy isn’t like most physical therapy practices. While PT mills want to get you in and out as quickly as possible so that they can bill your insurance, we want to get you better.
As a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and Certified Myofascial Trigger Point Therapist with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology, Dr. Carlos J Berio, PT, DPT, MS, CSCS, CMTPT, has the education, training, and skill to provide the exceptional PT experience you deserve.