Pain acupuncture or ‘Dry Needling’ is a technique where one uses an acupuncture needle on a specific point with the main aim of pain reduction and muscle relaxation. More often than not it is used as an adjunct treatment within Chiropractic or Physiotherapy care. It can be very useful in the acute stages of low back or neck pain, where there is so much discomfort that manipulation or massage is not the desired treatment option for the patient in that session. It can also be beneficial in the treatments for headaches and tennis elbow.
What does it do?
The sterilised acupuncture needle goes into a knot of muscle called a “trigger point” to take the tension out of the area. This promotes blood flow and deactivates the irritated knot. Under a microscope studies show it changes the adhesions within the muscles back to normal muscle tissue. A lot of research has been poured into acupuncture which is why it is commonly used by some GPs, physios and Chiropractors.
Is it painful?
Because the needles are so thin it does not puncture the skin like an injection but goes between the skin cells so doesn’t cause bleeding. When it goes into the knot it normally causes a slight “twitch response” much like a tiny muscle spasm where it is deactivating the muscle tightness this can be slightly uncomfortable- but everyone’s pain threshold is different. It is not used on patients who suffer with anxiety or have a needle phobia.
Is it dangerous?
The team at Sykes Verwey Centre has completed the physiotherapy dry needling course where we are trained to know where to put the needles due to his knowledge of the anatomy. We tend to stay away from any area over the thorax unlike some people who use acupuncture due to the slight risk of pneumothorax or collapsed lungs. So using it more for sports injuries and upper trap knots if not responding to massage or trigger point therapy.
Acupuncture is no longer on the NICE guidelines for back pain due to a new study coming out demonstrating a decreased effectiveness however many patients know and feel the benefit of dry needling.