What is dry needling?

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What is dry needling?

Dry needling is a technique used to specifically target altered muscle tissue to restore optimal function.  Dry needling involves the insertion of an acupuncture needle (a very fine, solid filament needle) into tissue such as muscle and fascia to stimulate specific reactions for a therapeutic effect.

What’s the difference between acupuncture & dry needling?

Many people are familiar with the use of acupuncture which has been used for over 2000 years in a traditional Chinese sense. Although dry needling uses acupuncture needles it differs to traditional acupuncture.  Traditional acupuncture aims to change body functions & pain through needling the bodies meridians, which are the Chinese medicine energy channels for chi or qi to flow (life energy).  These meridians are points on or just under the skin that are either ying or yang energy.  The use of an acupuncture needle aims to stimulate the necessary points to balance the flow of ying & yang energy.

Alternatively, dry needling utilises a therapists feel for altered tissue and its impact on movement and function.  There are several mechanisms by which dry needling is effective, including mechanical, neurophysiological and chemical.

  1. mechanical: one aim of dry needling is to mechanically disrupt dysfunctional tissue.  The direct insertion of a needle into tense or shortened muscle produces a reflex stretch response of the muscle fibres. This reflex stretch response involves nerve signalling via the brain & spinal cord, leading to a reduction in muscle tension.
  2. chemical: a dysfunctional tissue can have high levels of painful chemicals, altered nerve endings and therefore an increase in pain.  Although very fine, the insertion of a needle causes an initial increase in blood flow, stimulating the bodies natural immune response, improving the balance of chemicals within the tissue.
  3. neurophysiological: Dry needling has been found to stimulate A-delta muscle fibres.  These muscle fibres are responsible for carrying pain signals. The stimulation of these fibres set off a chain reaction in the brain to switch on neurons that inhibit pain & reduce muscle tension, resulting in pain relief.

Dry needling is an effective modality, which if administered by a skilled practitioner has minimal side effects (only occasional light bruising). Our needling technique should always be a very comfortable experience. In our practice dry needling is always performed in conjunction with other techniques to produce lasting results.

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central coast foot & ankle physiotherapy
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