s Dry Needling the same as Acupuncture? NO, it is not. In fact, not at all. Whereas Acupuncture points are always there (based on the meridian system), Myofascial Trigger Points (MTrPs) and other soft tissue injuries, as treated by Dry Needling, are only apparent when the associated pathology is present. In truth, the only thing in common with Acupuncture is the needle.
Dry Needling is an effective modality to help with the treatment of soft tissue Trigger Points, Tender Points, scar tissue, and other soft tissue problems.
Dry Needling has its roots in the application of Trigger Point injections that date back to the 1930s, with Dr. Janet Travell. The field grew over the next several decades. In 1979, the renowned Czech Rehabilitation Specialist, Dr. Karl Lewit, published a milestone paper discussing that using a hollow bore needle (like a Dry Needling or Acupuncture needle) produced the same positive clinical results as injections using a pharmacological agent. This paper spurred on further research and study, and today, it is well known that Dry Needling is an excellent treatment choice for soft tissue injuries, without the side effects of injections that administer pharmacologic agents.
The entire premise and background of Dry Needling is too vast to properly discuss here, but understanding some of what Dry Needling can do for you is listed below.
Mechanisms of Action on Myofascial Trigger Points (MFTrP) by Dry Needling include:
1. Normalize chemical environment of active MTrPs (Shah)
2. Mechanical disruption of contraction knots (Travell and Simons)
3. Micro trauma to muscle causing muscle regeneration without scar tissue formation. (Schultz)
4. Allows for relaxation of taut/tight microfibers to resume their resting length of actin and myosin overlap (Dommerholt)
5. Mechanical stimulation to collagen fibers that excites their piezoelectric potentials and that generates remodeling (Liboff)
6. Superficial Dry Needling may help to reduce pain because of the central release of oxytocin (Lundebeg)
7. Superficial Dry Needling may affect A Delta nerve fibers leading to activation of central nervous system opioid mediated pain suppression (Baldry)
8. Animal model studies reveal that skin and muscle needle stimulation results in increased cortical cerebral blood flow due to a reflex response of the afferent pathway (Alavi)
9. Insertion of needle into fascia causes a ‘grasping’ of the needle that leads to a winding of connective tissue and the creation of the tight mechanical coupling between needle and tissue. This leads to measurable changes in connective tissue architecture. Further studies revealed fibroblastic response distal to the needle site. It appears as if the collagen bundles assume a straighter, more parallel orientation after the rotation. These studies support the idea of superficial Dry Needling using an rotation component (Langevin).
If you are an athlete (or any person) with chronic/stubborn soft tissue injuries who has not responded favorably to other interventions, Dry Needling might be just what you need. In addition to the other techniques in the doctor’s sports medicine training repertoire, Dry Needling is a powerful tool and is many times a game changer. The results can be quite amazing!