Dry Needling

Andrew Roesler, Matthew Grosser & Justin Stone offer Dry Needling as a part of their treatment techniques. 
The same treatment framework will be maintained, but with needling, results can come faster and have longer-lasting effects. Needling is just one part of the equation, quality assessments and treatment of the dysfunction and not the symptom are the most important elements of getting the best results. 
Dry Needling enables your therapist to reach deeper painful parts of muscles that cannot be reached by more traditional techniques. 

What is Dry Needling?
Dry Needling is a valuable and effective adjunct treatment, using very thin needles which are guided deep into your muscle layers to inactivate myofascial trigger points. Dry needling works so effective through eliciting a healing response, providing immediate relief to the effected tissue. The result of needling is muscle relaxation, healing, deactivating trigger points and the associated referred pain, resulting in pain relief. The advantages of dry needling over other treatments are that we can treat parts of the muscle, and deeper layers of muscles, which our hands and fingers cannot reach. 
Dry Needling must not be confused with acupuncture (which is founded on Traditional Chinese Medicine) as, dry needling is based on Western anatomical and physiological principles and continues to evolve using the latest research.

Dry needling is effective for the following conditions:
•    Myofascial pain
•    Neck and back pain
•    Headaches & Migraines
•    TMJ Disorders
•    Chronic pain
•    Fibromyalgia
•    Inflammatory conditions
•    Joint pain
•    Muscle strains and sprains
•    Muscle imbalances and tightness

What Is a Trigger Point?
A myofascial trigger point is a hyper-irritable spot in a muscle which is located in a tight band that is painful to touch. This hypersensitive spot or nodule (the well-known “knot”) can give characteristic pain and referred pain, referred tenderness as well as other symptoms in areas other then where the muscle is located. Janet Travell first described the existence of trigger points in the 1940’s.

Treatment approach
Dry Needling is never a treatment by itself. It is always done in conjunction with other manual and physical therapy treatments, such as exercises, postural training, education and other hands on techniques like soft tissue work and manipulation. Since full pain free range of motion is the ultimate goal of myofascial treatments, we teach the muscles the right away to work in their newly-gained pain free range to restore their normal function. It is important that you are an active participant in your own treatments and well being. 
There is no specific, predetermined number of treatments for patients with myofascial pain. Chronic conditions will require more treatments than acute conditions. In addition, the amount of treatments will also depend on concurrent other medical conditions, your compliance with the exercises, your age and physical condition, and the amount of visits suggested by your therapist. 

Before the treatment
Prior to the treatment, a history will be taken and a thorough physical therapy examination will be performed. Patients need to inform us if they have conditions such as pregnancy, if they have implanted devices like a pacemaker, a bone stimulator or other electrical stimulators, and if they use medications like blood thinners or immuno-suppressant drugs.

During the treatment
You will be in a comfortable position; usually lying on your stomach or on your back. When the needle is inserted you may feel a little prick though the skin. Following this, you will not feel the needle at all when the muscle is relaxed. If the muscle is tight, there may be some soreness. When the needle hits the trigger point, there will be a brief and unexpected twitch response which may be momentarily painful. During your visit, multiple trigger point in numerous areas will be treated.  After the treatment you may feel a little bit sore within your muscles (see Side Effects further down the page). To decrease muscle pain following your treatment, it is advised to keep the area warm using a heat bag, and stretching. Some studies also suggest taking extra Vitamin C starting 1-2 days prior to the treatment and for 1-2 days following the treatment. 

Side effects
Dry Needling may cause an increase in pain which can last from a couple of hours to several days, followed by an expected improvement in the overall pain state.

Complications
Like any physical therapy, there are possible complications, while uncommon, they do sometimes occur and must be considered prior to giving consent to the procedure.
•    Any time needles are used there is a risk of infection. We use new, disposable and sterile needles, and infections are extremely rare.
•    A needle may be placed inadvertently in an artery or vein. If an artery or vein is punctured with the needle, a bruise will develop.
•    If a nerve is touched, it may cause paresthesia (a prickling sensation) which is usually brief, but it may continue for a couple of days.
•    When a needle is placed close to the chest wall, there is a very rare possibility of a pneumothorax (air in the chest cavity).

How does it work?
The primary effect of Dry Needling is that it produces a local twitch response. This results in muscle relaxation due to the release of shortened bands of muscle fibers. There are currently several hypotheses regarding the exact mechanism of pain relief.
Lewitt demonstrated the effectiveness of Dry Needling in 1979 in a groundbreaking study which was published in Pain.

Frost, et.al.proposed that it was the needling procedure itself which caused a muscle relaxation due to stimulation of the spinal reflex arc, and not because of the injected medication.

Hong and others emphasized the importance of eliciting a local twitch response during the application of any needling technique. They also found in a clinical trial that trigger point dry needling technique is equally effective as an injection with 0.5% lidocane. When treating the upper trapezius muscle, they found no difference in reducing pain intensity, muscle pressure sensitivity on pressure algometry, and there was an equal increase of cervical range of motion.

The approach of Chan Gunn, MD from Vancouver, BC, is that chronic myofascial pain (which he describes as being a chronic pain condition that occurs in the musculoskeletal system with no obvious sign of injury or inflammation) is caused by an underlying neuropathic condition. This is treated not only by dry needling the affected muscles, but also by including the needling of the corresponding paraspinal (back) musculature. This neuropathic pain model is the foundation for his treatments. His Institute for the Study and Treatment of pain (iSTOP) identifies this total system for the diagnosis and treatment technique as Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS). In addition, he supports that there is a histamine release that causes local irritation and relaxation of the muscle. 
According to Fischer the mechanism of Dry Needling that seems to provide muscle relaxation and pain relief, is that Dry Needling mechanically breaks up the nodularity of the tissue.
In Ingber’s opinion, the mechanism is one of a decrease in stiffness of the muscle through an electrical event. Decrease of stiffness increases the flexibility of the muscle, which is then maintained through myofascial stretching exercises.

Yet others indicate that a little bleeding causes release of so called platelet derived growth factors, which aids in the healing of the muscle.

Studies by Shah, et.al., published in 2005 and 2008, are clearly demonstrating that soon after a local twitch response is obtained, normalization of the pH and of several biochemicals and neurotransmitters occur in the environment surrounding the trigger point. Specifically: normalization of levels of concentrations of protons, bradykinin, calcitonin gene-related peptide, substance P, tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-1, serotonin, and norepinephrine were seen. These chemicals are involved in regulation of pain. Therefore, normalization of these levels will decrease the pain.