What Is Trigger Point Dry Needling?

What Is Trigger Point Dry Needling?

Trigger point dry needling, also known as dry needling or myofascial trigger point dry needling, is a procedure that we use to treat a wide range of muscle pain and tension. Whether that pain is in your back, neck, shoulders, jaw, ankles, or even if you are suffering from a headache, trigger point dry needling may be right for you.

In the video below, you’ll see Dr. Blake working on a patient with pain and tightness in his shoulder and Achilles tendon. The great thing about trigger point dry needling is we can position the patient on his side and hit everything at once. Trigger point dry needling stimulates the tissue to release pressure which makes rehab exercises more effective. But what is trigger point dry needling exactly?

What Is Trigger Point Dry Needling?

If you’ve heard of trigger point dry needling, you’re probably wondering what it is and if it hurts. While the name may sound intimidating or painful, trigger point dry needling causes minimal discomfort, if any. 

Trigger point dry needling is a drug-free treatment performed by skilled, trained, and certified chiropractors, medical doctors, and physical therapists. The practitioner uses a thin monofilament needle to penetrate the skin and treat underlying muscular trigger points or muscle tension, injuries, and pain. This process has been proven to relieve and improve neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments in many patients.

A trigger point is an area of constriction or tension in muscle fibers that can disrupt function, restrict mobility or range of motion, and cause intense pain and tenderness. Trigger point dry needling is used to target these tight, uncomfortable trigger points in a particular muscle so that they loosen, allow blood flow to increase, and relieve pain. 

Many doctors don’t treat the underlying cause of a problem and if you see a practitioner who just focuses on rehab exercises, they won’t be effective because the tension and pain in the trigger points have not been released. Rehabilitation exercises are important and we use them daily in our practice but using just one methodology is not the best way to help patients feel better faster.

Our patients compare the effectiveness of trigger point dry needling to multiple deep tissue massages, but in a fraction of the time. During a trigger point dry needling session, a patient may feel a twitch in the muscle or pressure as it releases tension but they don’t feel pain from the needles. Some patients don’t even feel the needles enter their skin and just feel a mild ache, twitch, or a feeling of pressure during the treatment.

Trigger point dry needling dates back to the 1970s when a physician ran a study that tested injecting medication into trigger points. The physician was shocked to find out that the control group that didn’t receive any sort of medication (aka the dry needle), still saw significant improvement in their pain levels. After a series of additional tests, trigger point dry needling was developed using acupuncture needles to stimulate the tissue in and around a trigger point and now is rapidly growing in popularity due to its effectiveness in relieving pain and healing injuries.

It’s amazing the results patients can get from a short trigger point dry needling session. We determine how long the needles need to be left in the muscle by the type of pain a patient is experiencing. For pain that isn’t deep in a muscle, needles may only be left for a few seconds. For more intense, deep muscle pain, we usually leave the needles for 10-15 minutes. During that time, you may experience twitching or pressure but most people do not experience any pain.

What Is The Difference Between Trigger Point Dry Needling & Acupuncture?

Trigger point dry needling may remind you of acupuncture, and while trigger point dry needling uses the same needles as acupuncture, that is really the only similarity between the two therapies. During an acupuncture session, needles are inserted into points along meridian lines which represent the body’s organs and they are based on ancient Chinese medicine. Acupuncture is based on the idea of balance and restoring the proper flow of energy throughout the body.

Conversely, trigger point dry needling has a musculoskeletal approach focused on placing needles in muscles and trigger points that are tight or in pain in order to relieve that pain and tension. This is very different than acupuncture, which is a complete Asian system of healing focusing on meridians, energy, and chi.

What Can Trigger Point Dry Needling Treat?

Trigger point dry needling can treat a vast range of ailments including:

  • Disc problems like a herniated disk or pinched nerve
  • Tendinitis
  • Migraine and tension headaches
  • TMJ and other temporomandibular joint disorders
  • Whiplash
  • Repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow
  • Spinal problems
  • Knee pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Osteoarthritis pain
  • Hip pain
  • Sports injuries
  • Fibromyalgia pain
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Neuropathy
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Shin splints
  • Pelvic pain

Trigger point dry needling is incredibly effective for patients suffering from long-term or chronic pain that hasn’t improved with other pain management programs. We get even better results for our patients when we pair trigger point dry needling with other therapies such as soft tissue manipulation or class 4 laser therapy.

Are you ready to finally get some relief from your pain and see if trigger point dry needling is for you? Click here or call (410) 296-7700 to schedule your consultation and we’ll explain how we can help you feel better faster, even if nothing else has worked before.

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Kalkstein Chiropractic
200 East Joppa Road #300
Towson, MD 21286
(410) 296-7700