It may look similar to acupuncture, but according to Dr.Prof.Prabhu PT, Director, Steadfast neuro Super Specialty Rehab, Bangalore, India, dry needling is therapeutically different from acupuncture. And, he added, it’s one of the single best ways to treat a muscle injury, weakness, pain, spasticity and spasm.
WHAT IS DRY NEEDLING?
“It is a very specific and localized treatment but can be given in multiple places at the same time,” said Dr.Prabhu, “So, the pain relief is felt very quickly, allowing the client to move less difficulty with less pain throughout the therapy session.”
Dry needling is an approach to managing soft tissue injuries that has gained popularity with physiotherapists, especially those specializing in pain medicine where increased range of motion and a quick recovery are often vital.
According to Dr.Prabhu, every injury has elements of myofascial (soft tissue) restrictions because the body is trying to protect that area from further harm. Think of the muscle fiber as a foot long piece of rope, and the “trigger point,” or knot being in the middle.
“Anatomically speaking, it’s the same exact piece of muscle fiber, but now it cannot lengthen or shorten properly,” Dr.Prabhu said. “When it cannot do so, it will not function the same, and lead to decreased strength and force production, along with possible compensations.”
That’s where dry needling can help. Through the use of fine needles inserted into strategic locations on the body, the technique essentially loosens and “alleviates the knot.”
SO HOW IT IS DIFFERENT FROM ACUPUNCTURE?
The difference is more scientific and clinical, Dr.prabhu said.
Acupuncture is a tradition of Chinese medicine and philosophy that believes on vital energy, flows through the body and can be maintained by inserting needles in meridian points to help patients.
“Dry needling, on the other hand, is a clinical treatment that helps muscles to relax and lengthen, creating more mobility,” Dr.Prabhu said. “While acupuncture needles are very, very lightly tapped into key locations on the body, the techniques used in dry needling are designed to penetrate the skin, fascia and reach into the compromised muscle to stimulate the myofascial trigger points, creating a change in the soft tissues’ form, and thus function.”
EFFECT OF DRY NEEDLING
Dr.Prabhu said clients can feel some slight discomfort with dry needling, such as a small sting or even a muscle twitch, “but this is good. It means the muscle is reacting,” he added.
Dr.Prabhu often begins physiotherapy sessions with dry needling. Used regularly over the course of physical therapy, dry needling can dramatically reduce pain, and allow patients to rapidly return to the field, and pursuing their passions.
“This is one reason it is so popular with athletes and weekend warriors,” said Dr. Prabhu. “But it is also applicable to things such as chronic headaches, chronic lower back pain, or other chronic injuries such as shoulder impingement syndrome or knee issues.”
EFFECT OF DRY NEEDLING ON STROKE PATIENTS
According to a study published in journal “Neuro Rehabilitation”, Dry needling can improve Spasticity, hand function in hemiplegic patients. The patients were able to voluntarily extend the wrist and fingers slightly after Dry Needling.
Another author from Journal of manipulative Physiotherapy says, Our results suggest that a single session of Dry Needling decreases spasticity and widespread pressure sensitivity in individuals with poststroke spasticity. Deep dry needling also induced changes in plantar pressure by increasing the support surface and decreasing the mean pressure.
Li Tang, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China, says, Our findings suggest that dry needling of the trigger points may have a prolonged effect. Spasticity is a sensorimotor disorder, and we believe that during dry needling, the mechanical sensory stimulation evokes a sensory transduction that not only affects the needling areas, but the nervous system as well. Encouragingly, after the ninth treatment, the patient was able to shrug his shoulder.
In conclusion, dry needling of the trigger points improves the spasticity of related muscles that in turn gives the nerve control of the relatively undamaged muscles, allowing movement of the shoulder, hand and legs.