Dry Needling

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is performed at the MSSP to treat patients with headaches, jaw pain, neck and back pain, sports injuries to joints and muscles, to enhance pain management and incorporate with other physiotherapy treatment to improve function. Needling of muscle trigger points was first developed in the 1800s and progressed with formal research by Dr Kellegren in 1930 and later by Dr Lewis in the 1940s. Dr Janet Travell who was President John F Kennedy’s physician further developed treatment of trigger points.

The concept of dry needling was initiated due to the philosophical concepts of acupuncture in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM acupuncture was based on energy pathways and the flow of ‘Qi’ energy based on the spiritual concepts that were understood in China over 5000 years ago. TCM practitioners use acupoints and ‘Qi’ energy flow via meridians to treat patients.

Dry needling can be performed following the pathway of the nervous system (Selvaratnam 2004, 2008: Selvaratnam Gabel 2009). For example, the pathway of the sciatic nerve and its branches can be followed for those with low back/sciatic pain; the brachial plexus and branches for those with neck/arm pain and the intercostal nerves for those with intercostal pain. Similarly dry needling can be applied in those with headache/jaw pain along the pathway of the greater occipital nerve or the distribution of trigeminal nerve.

Research demonstrates that needling relaxes muscles and stimulates large nerve fibres to reduce pain. Studies on animals demonstrate that needling with acupuncture needles releases endorphins which are the body’s natural pain reliever. Functional MRI studies and PET scans demonstrate that needling activates the somatosensory cortex and brain regions which promote pain relief. In 2008 Dr Niddan demonstrated that dry needling the upper trapezius muscles stimulates the somatosensory cortex and inhibits the hippocampus. Thus, dry needling has neurophysiological effects in reducing pain and relaxation of muscle trigger points which can benefit in improving one’s function.