Dry needling is an invasive technique aimed at deactivating muscle or myofascial trigger points in order to reset and relax the target muscle.
What is a trigger point?
A trigger point is a palpable nodule or hyper-irritable spot within a taut band of muscle (a group of fibers within the muscle holding greater tension than the rest), which, upon compression, generates pain and triggers a map of referred pain, that is, a characteristic and specific non-local pain for each trigger point. If it is an active trigger point, when pressed, the patient will associate it with his referred pain.
This technique consists of the introduction of a sterile needle into the muscle until it reaches the trigger point and stimulates the motor plate and neuromuscular spindle, immediately reducing the pain felt by the patient and producing a reflex muscular relaxation and increased elasticity. It is known as “dry” because no type of substance is injected while the technique is performed.
This technique can be performed in one of two ways: superficially (without reaching the trigger point), or deep (the needle passes through the trigger point).
Does it cause discomfort?
This technique can be uncomfortable when applied, and localized discomfort may be felt for 24-48 hours (similar to the stiffness felt after intense activity). However, it is a good treatment option to consider due to the manner in which it efficiently provides rapid pain relief, which means it works better in conjunction with other active and passive treatment techniques.
In some cases, its application requires the use of an ultrasound machine to guide us and perform it safely, especially when it is applied to hard-to-reach muscles or where there is some risk of puncturing an important and delicate anatomical structure, such as major blood vessels (arteries, veins) , nerves, viscera, or lymph nodes.
Because of these types of problems, and because it is an invasive technique to which not everyone is accustomed, the physiotherapist shall explain the entire process thoroughly before using the technique and shall provide the patient with information regarding advantages and disadvantages, as well as information regarding other treatment alternatives.