As mentioned above, needles can be placed in or around various structures in the body depending on the desired response. When the fine, hair-like needle is inserted into a trigger point, a local twitch response (LTR) can be elicited. This LTR is a quick contraction reflex of the muscle that can be both diagnostic and therapeutic. Research has shown that when the LTR is elicited, the tissue will have a decreased muscle contraction, reduced chemical irritation, improved flexibility and can provide short term pain relief . This can often immediately improve range of motion, improve function and decrease or eliminate pain. Eliciting a LTR is not imperative and often will not occur when performing needling aimed at other structures in the body besides muscles and trigger points. Needles can also be placed into other tissues including tendons, ligaments, around scars or near nerves. Depending on the patient's particular pathology, the aim of Dry Needling may be different and therefore the desired physiological response is also different.
More specifically, DN has been shown to have many physiological mechanisms to reduce pain and disability:
● Local Mechanical Effects
- Winding, tenting or needle grasp to deform and disrupt fibroblasts within the neighboring collagen tissue resulting in increased opioid mediated response
- LTR causing decreased muscle contraction and improved range of motion, mobilizing collagen restrictions within the muscle and fascia
● Electrophysiological Effects
- Decreased spontaneous electrical activity (SEA) at the active trigger point, improved neuromuscular activation and timing
● Neurophysiological Effects
- Increased pressure pain thresholds
- Stimulation and decreased inhibition of the descending sensory pain pathways
- Activation of central mediated systems including activation of areas in the brain involved in pain processing and the emotion of pain
● Chemical/Cellular Effects
- Improved blood flow to nerves, tissues due to a decrease in vascular compression
- Inflammatory and immune system responses initiated.
Although Dry Needling has been around for years, it is a relatively new treatment to many. DN is being used successfully with professional athletes, weekend warriors for chronic pain, neck pain, headaches, low back pain, knee osteoarthritis, plantar fasciitis, sacroiliac joint pain, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff tendonitis and many other common musculoskeletal conditions. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Gregory Shea, DPT, Dip. Osteopractic, at Precision Osteopractic please go directly to https://www.precisionopt.com/. Self scheduling is easy and no referral is required.