What Does Dry Needling Do & How Does It Work?

What Does Dry Needling Do & How Does It Work?

When you hear about dry needling, you might wonder how inserting thin needles into your muscles can actually ease pain and improve function. That’s a great question, and one we will explore in detail here in our latest blog.

Dry needling targets specific trigger points in your muscles, releasing tension and boosting blood flow. But how exactly does dry needling work, and what makes it effective?

Understanding the science behind dry needling can shed light on why many people find relief through dry needling.

Curious about dry needling mechanisms and benefits? Let’s explore how this intriguing therapy can transform your approach to managing muscle pain and enhancing overall function.

Understanding Needling

Understanding dry needling involves recognising how inserting thin needles into muscle trigger points can disrupt muscle function and alleviate pain. So, what’s dry needling?

Fundamentally, it’s a needle therapy that targets hyperirritable spots in your muscles—often developed from injury, overuse, or poor movement patterns.

Both a dry needle or acupuncture needle are about 10% of the size of a medical needle - extremely thin and painless on insertion.

By precisely inserting fine needles into these trigger points, you can release tension, reduce muscle tightness, and increase blood flow to the affected area. How does dry needling work?

When the needles penetrate the muscle, they stimulate the nervous system, prompting the release of neurotransmitters that block pain signals and promote healing. This not only relieves immediate pain but also helps reset dysfunctional muscle patterns, improving muscle function and restoring proper muscle activation.

The needles typically remain in the muscle for a short duration, ranging from 10 seconds to 20 minutes, depending on the specific dry needling treatment protocol.

You might experience some very mild discomfort after dry needling, which is generally a normal response as your muscles adjust and begin to heal. Conducted by trained dry needling physical therapists, this technique is both safe and effective for various musculoskeletal conditions, offering you a path to pain relief and improved function.

The Science Behind Needling

Looking into the science behind dry needling reveals how the insertion of thin, sterile needles into myofascial trigger points stimulates both local and central nervous system responses to alleviate pain and enhance muscle function.

When these dry needling needles penetrate the skin, they directly target hyperirritable spots in the muscle fibres, initiating a local twitch response. This response helps release muscle tension and reset dysfunctional muscle patterns.

Dry needling stimulates these trigger points, promoting the release of neurotransmitters like endorphins and enkephalins, which are your body’s natural painkillers. This biochemical cascade effectively blocks pain signals and enhances healing processes.

Your Dry Needling Physio will use extremely thin needles to target your muscle trigger points to release tension and relieve pain.

Additionally, the dry needling triggers vasodilation, increasing blood flow to the affected area. This improved circulation aids in the delivery of nutrients and the removal of metabolic waste, further promoting tissue repair and reducing inflammation.

On a broader scale, dry needling engages the central nervous system by modulating pain perception through spinal cord and brain pathways. This dual mechanism of action—local muscle response and central nervous system modulation—explains what dry needling does to provide a comprehensive approach to pain management and muscle function enhancement.

When performed by trained professionals, dry needling is a safe and effective technique that can liberate you from chronic pain and muscular dysfunction.

The Advantages of Needling

Dry needling offers a variety of benefits, including significant reductions in muscle pain through the targeted release of endogenous pain-relieving chemicals. This technique can be a game-changer for those dealing with chronic muscle tightness and discomfort.

By inserting thin needles into specific trigger points, you can experience a profound easing of muscular tension and a decrease in inflammation.

Here are three key benefits of dry needling:

Moreover, the technique is highly effective at resetting dysfunctional muscle patterns, making it easier to achieve peak muscle function. Whether you’re an athlete recovering from an injury or someone looking to alleviate chronic muscle pain, dry needling offers a targeted, evidence-based solution to enhance your overall function and mobility.

Dry Needling Procedure Explained

When you undergo the dry needling procedure, a trained practitioner inserts thin, solid needles directly into specific muscle trigger points to alleviate tension and improve muscle function. These needles, unlike those used in injections, don’t introduce any substances into your body. Instead, they target hyperirritable spots within your muscles, known as trigger points.

The process begins with a thorough assessment to identify the exact locations of these trigger points. Once identified, the practitioner swiftly inserts the needles into the muscle tissue. This insertion stimulates the muscle fibres, causing a localised twitch response. This reaction helps reset dysfunctional muscle patterns and encourages the muscle to relax.

For a deeper understanding of the dry needling process, here is a great video from Jason Williams Rehab demonstrating the procedure on a patient:

The needles’ presence prompts your nervous system to release neurotransmitters that block pain signals and promote healing. Additionally, the mechanical action of the needle increases blood flow to the affected area, further facilitating recovery. People often combine the procedure with exercise and physical therapy techniques to enhance its overall effectiveness.

Dry needling specifically targets tight muscles in your neck, back, arms, or legs. Targeting these precise points can greatly relieve pain, improve range of motion, and reduce muscle tension.

Who Should (and Should Not) Try Dry Needling

Many individuals with musculoskeletal pain, trigger points, and restricted range of motion can benefit from dry needling as a therapeutic intervention. If you’re experiencing these issues, this technique might help alleviate your discomfort, improve your range of motion, and promote overall healing. 

Dry needling works by inserting thin needles into specific trigger points in your muscles, which releases tension and increases blood flow to the affected areas.

However, not everyone is a suitable candidate for dry needling. We don’t recommend dry needling in the following three scenarios:

It’s crucial to consult a trained dry needling professional who can skilfully palpate trigger points and follow safe guidelines to guarantee effective and safe treatment outcomes. Always discuss your medical history and conditions with your practitioner before starting dry needling therapy.

Summing It All Up...

Essentially, dry needling functions like a key, opening a door to pain relief and improved muscle function. By precisely targeting muscle trigger points, dry needling stimulates your nervous system, blocks pain signals, and enhances blood flow, accelerating healing.

Although not for everyone, dry needling can benefit those who qualify. Always consult with a trained dry needling professional to make sure it’s the right fit for your specific condition and needs.

People looking for dry needling therapy should discuss the suitability with our experienced dry needling physios. 

Please give call us today on (03) 6161 1737 or book in online to see if dry needling therapy is right for you.

Rosanna Physiotherapy

Rosanna Physiotherapy

Rosanna Physio has been serving the people of Rosanna and its surrounding suburbs since 1989. We have the experience and education to effectively treat any muscle or joint injury that requires expert physical therapy care.

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