What is dry needling?
Dry needling is basically inserting an acupuncture needle into a trigger point or points, of a painful or injured muscle.
There can be many reasons why a muscle can be painful, the most common cause is that the muscle has tightened up and is causing restricted movement, or pain on movement. So, the idea behind dry needling is to release the affected muscle by activating the trigger point. This can usually be felt as a slight spasm or pull.
What is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?
Acupuncture is part of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) paradigm. It involves inserting needles into specific acupuncture points along specific acupuncture energy meridians or channels.
Each point has a specific function and is chosen relative to your overall TCM diagnosis. For example, if you suffer from stress related headaches, the acupuncturist may use points such as Liver 3 and Colon 4. If the headache has its origins in your shoulders then Gall Bladder 21 might be used.
Gall Bladder 21 is a classic case in point of an acupuncture point corresponding with a trigger point. In this case Gall Bladder 21 is also the trigger point for releasing the upper trapezius muscle (see diagram).
TCM has been developing over thousands of years, so it is only natural that some trigger points correspond with acupuncture points.
As with any skin penetration, it is important that you are seeing someone who has at least 4 years training in the safe use of acupuncture needles. You can only get this by seeing an AHPRA registered acupuncturist.
Many other health providers who use needles have only done a diploma or short course (sometimes only 2 days!) in the safe and correct use of needles.
Acupuncture Points and Trigger Points Used Together
The beauty of using acupuncture points as well as trigger points is that you get not only the local muscle release, but also a treatment tailored to addressing the underlying causes as to why the muscle is tight in the first place.
As mentioned above, stress is a common trigger, and there are countless points that can help overcome and manage stress responses. If you are prone to injuring muscles, then how can we strengthen your body holistically so this becomes less of a problem?
There are many fantastic acupuncture points which can help to boost the energy and blood supply to your muscles, ensuring they are lubricated and fully functional. Maybe you are not sleeping well, which can deprive your muscles of valuable healing time, again acupuncture can help with that.
Dietary therapy is also a great way to strengthen and nourish muscles. It usually only takes a few small sustainable changes to make all the difference.
If you are thinking of getting dry needling done, make sure you see a qualified musculoskeletal acupuncturist.