Around the world today, many people are dealing with pain on a daily basis. Pain can come in many different forms and affect multiple parts of the body, causing a person to experience difficulty moving or functioning in everyday activities. One of the most common forms of pain is myofascial pain. Myofascial pain occurs in or around muscle tissue or originates from muscle tissue. Myofascial pain can be local or referred. Pain that is originating from one area and is felt somewhere else in the body is called "referred pain". Referred pain can be caused by multiple sources including trigger points within the muscle. In lay terms, a trigger point is known as a "knot" within the muscle that can frequently be felt upon palpation. Many forms or techniques may be used by a physical therapist for treating this pain. These techniques include massage, myofascial release, and stretching. However, a new technique has emerged within the physical therapy world called trigger point dry needling.
Trigger point dry needling is defined by the American Physical Therapy Association as, “a skilled intervention performed by a physical therapist that uses a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscular and connective tissues for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments”. Patients with a phobia of needles can rest assured there is a difference between dry needles and wet needles. A wet needle is a hollow hypodermic needle used to inject substances. A dry needle is typically much smaller than a wet needle and is solid rather than hollow. The dry needle also has a rounded tip as opposed to the beveled, cutting edge tip of a hypodermic needle.
People may question if this is the same as acupuncture and the answer is NO. Dry needling and acupuncture share only one common thread: they both use a similar needle. The differences are in the evaluative tools used by the practitioner, the assessment, the application, and the overall intended goal. As defined above, a trigger point is a painful area in the body or can refer pain throughout the body. Research states that within the trigger point area, multiple negative responses are occurring. First, muscle fibers are in a state of hyperactivity and are continuously firing when they should be relaxing. Second, a biochemical change causes increased levels of toxins causing pain sensitivity and inflammation. A combination of these changes increase discomfort and heighten sensitivity to pain. Dry needling a trigger point can reverse these negative changes and return the muscle to a normal state.
Dry needling works by activating a local twitch response within the muscle. The local twitch response occurs when the needle penetrates a knotted or irritated muscle fiber. The response is similar to a reflex that responds automatically and cannot be controlled. Following the twitch response, the patient may feel soreness but most often experiences tiredness within the treated area. Research has shown that after the local twitch response, the muscle reverses the negative factors caused by a trigger point. The toxins are changed from being irritating and painful to relaxing and comfortable. The patient typically feels better and normal movement and functioning are restored. At Progressive Physical Therapy our therapists strive to ensure our patients receive the best treatment, as we are the “Movement Specialists”.
Dry needling is a relatively new therapy approach within the physical therapy community. However, dry needling has proven to be safe and effective for the treatment of pain when performed by a therapist trained in dry needling. Research has shown that traditional treatment approaches used by physical therapists are effective in treating trigger points but dry needling has also been determined to be more efficient and can be more comfortable for the patient. Progressive Physical Therapy offers dry needling techniques by therapist trained by Kinetacore in both our Keyser and Romney offices. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of trigger point dry needling, or other physical therapy treatments, feel free to contact any of our offices located in Cumberland, Keyser, or Romney.