One of the proposed effects of dry needling is its influence on both acute and chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation occurs anytime after an injury and, believe it or not, is essential in the healing process. Occasionally, injuries are too severe/long-standing for acute inflammation to remedy, and chronic inflammation begins to take hold. Chronic inflammation can induce a number of effects that hamper the ability of the injured tissue to fully heal.
When a needle is introduced into the area of injury it stimulates a “damage effect,” otherwise known as “needle-induced therapeutic inflammation.” If the needle is placed in an area of acute inflammation it will enhance/speed up the healing process. If the needle is placed in an area of chronic inflammation it will re-establish an acute inflammatory response, which can then promote healing.
Yet another proposed effect of dry needling is the reversal of muscle contracture, AKA “trigger point dry needling.” Trigger points are described as small, tight bands of muscle tissue that are often times painful to the touch. By introducing a needle into this tight band of muscle, the tissue mechanically deforms. Often times, the trigger points are decreased or completely abolished due to this mechanical deformation.
Lastly, it’s important to know that most of the effects of dry needling are based in sound scientific theory rather than 100% scientific fact! But also know, THAT IS OK! The risks of dry needling are minimal when applied by a trained practitioner. Furthermore, clinical research has demonstrated dry needling to be quite effective in reducing pain… so does it really matter that we don’t 100% know the WHY behind it? Traditional acupuncturists have practiced “Ashi” acupuncture (very similar to trigger point dry needling) for hundreds of years with great success. We’ve also seen many of our SCWC patients respond very favorably to dry needling.
All in all, we at SCWC believe dry needling to be a safe and effective treatment for musculoskeletal pain, and is something that offers options for patients that may have tried other therapies with no success.