Most people don’t like to think about how important needles are to treating injuries, illnesses and other medical issues. They often strike fear into many of us when we think about them. However, needles are essential for giving patients life-saving medications and many other medical purposes. Dry needling is one of these purposes. You might not have heard of this physical therapy technique, yet physical therapists can use this needle-based treatment option to address pain and decreased range of motion.
What is dry needling?
Dry needling, or intramuscular manual therapy (IMT), is a Western medical practice that’s designed to address trigger points in the muscles. It involves a physical therapist using monofilament needles to stimulate a myofascial trigger point (MTP). MTPs are specific areas of muscles, fascia and connective tissue that have become stiff. They are often painful and tender to the touch as well. Pain can even radiate from trigger points into other parts of the body. The special needles are used to reach MTPs that cannot be targeted with techniques like soft tissue mobilization. Typically, dry needling sessions cause little to no discomfort or pain.
How is dry needling done?
Therapists who perform dry needling have been specially trained in using this technique. They’ll also take all proper sanitary measures. Your physical therapist will wear gloves and may wear other personal protective equipment, too. To apply IMT to the affected soft tissue, your therapist will typically:
- Use their hands to pinpoint the area of soft tissue where MTPs are located.
- Insert the monofilament needle or needles into the affected area.
- Remove the needle or needles once a twitch response has occurred in the targeted tissue.
What conditions can benefit from dry needling?
Dry needling can offer many benefits for patients with MTPs. It can reduce the pain that MTPs create, and this technique can also help improve soft tissue flexibility, which can improve range of motion. The improved flexibility and range of motion that IMT offers can improve joint mobility, too. These and other benefits mean that dry needling is often used in conjunction with other PT methods when patients have:
- Elbow conditions like tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow.
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction.
- Neck pain.
- Pain after total joint replacements.
- Shoulder pain.
- Hand and finger pain.
- Back pain.
- Wrist injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Ankle pain.
How should I prepare for a dry needling session?
There are many ways you can help maximize the effectiveness of the physical therapy our team offers. One of these is to wear loose, comfortable clothing and sturdy, supportive shoes to your session — essentially, anything you’d be comfortable working out in. Of course, while many of our physical therapy services involve active participation from you, dry needling sessions allow you to take more of a passive role.
When you first arrive for your initial consultation, one of our physical therapists will take you through a thorough patient history questionnaire and physical examination. You’ll be encouraged to ask questions at every point in the PT session. These questions can help us gain insight into your unique condition and help us provide you with an accurate diagnosis and plan of care, which may include dry needling as well as additional evidence-based physical therapy services such as therapeutic exercises, joint mobilizations and manual therapy.
We always encourage our patients to stay well hydrated before, during and after their sessions. Water is essential to helping your body heal, and the effects of both active and passive therapeutic services (including dry needling) are often increased when you drink plenty of fluids. Aim for one-third to one-half your body weight in fluid ounces per day, or more if you exercise a lot or have a physically demanding job.
Armor PT offers dry needling designed to help reduce pain and improve range of motion
Are you tired of living with acute or chronic pain throughout your body? Our Armor Physical Therapy team is ready and willing to help you address the root cause of your pain with dry needling and many other PT techniques.
Contact us today to find out more about dry needling and all the other therapy methods our team offers or to schedule your initial PT appointment.