Does dry needling really work?
I get asked this a lot, and there is a simple answer, and a complex answer to this question!
The simple answer is that by inserting something (ie: the needle) directly into a “problem spot”, your brain recognises that stimulus, and sends messages directly to the spot – which in turn increases blood flow to the area, and neutralises the muscle spindle.
The more complex answer involves understanding how your nerve pathways work from your brain, to spinal cord, to the pain receptors and the “problem spot” so, this means:
1. Something causes pain, if it happens often enough or if the trauma is great enough, the pain signal may return and activate special pain receptors, which will feedback to the spinal cord. This will cause pain to continue instead of fade and is called a ‘Reflex Arc’.
2. At the same time motor neurones may become stuck in a feedback loop/reflex arc, facilitating muscle spasm. In some cases the reflex arc continues for years, even decades.
3. Introducing a new stimulus (i.e. the needle) impedes the reflex arc and has the effect of relaxing the muscle.
A muscle in constant spasm becomes a damaged muscle. Spasm reduces blood flow in the muscle. This means less oxygen and nutrients to the muscle. Muscle fibres die off and get replaced by fibrous scar tissue. This in turn holds the muscle tense, prevents muscle metabolites from leaving the muscle and causes continued spasm and pain. So therefore, putting a needle into an active trigger point within the muscle causes the muscle to relax.
Why should I choose dry needling over massage?
Basically, I like to use dry needling as an adjunct to massage and soft tissue work, as it allows me to affect the problem areas quickly, and then my massage can be more effective.
It may take several treatments to achieve the same response I can get out of one dry needle session.