Our Podiatrists are highly trained in the use of dry needling therapies for the treatment/management of many acute & chronic lower extremity conditions.
Sterile, thin-filament acupuncture needles are used to treat myofascial trigger points and help restore normal muscle function.
What Is Dry Needling?
Dry needling involves the insertion of sterile thin-filament acupuncture needles in to a myofascial trigger point.
Trigger points (TrPs) are commonly referred to as ‘muscle knots’, and are a very common cause of acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain.
TrPs are discrete, focal, hyper-irritable spots located in a taut band of skeletal muscle. They often occur as a result of neuromuscular/motor dysfunctions and in areas of increased musculoskeletal stress. Neuromuscular dysfunctions can present as; muscle weakness, muscular rigidity/’tightness’, generalised muscle pain.
An example of reffered pain in relation to a TrP – A person may be experiencing pain in and around the heel and has not been achieving the desired level of improvement from other conservative treatments (eg: orthoses/orthotics, basic stretches etc…). The problem may actually be a trigger point located within a muscle that is referring pain to the area and/or affecting the tension of the surrounding fascia.
How Does Dry Needling Work?
A TrP involves portions of muscle that remain in a constant state of contraction. This constant state contributes to the motor dysfunction (eg: weakness) experienced by the affected muscle groups. Dry needling aims to inhibit this contraction by sending signals to the nervous system which cause the muscle to relax and decrease the pain & dysfunction experienced.
The acupuncture needles that are used for dry needling are very thin, and in most cases they are not even felt when penetrating the skin.
When a needle is inserted in to a healthy muscle there is very little discomfort felt. However if a TrP is present in a muscle that is being needled some associated discomfort may be felt. The muscle may feel like it is going to cramp, or the muscle may produce an involuntarily twitch. This ‘twitch response’ is a sign deactivation of a TrP has occurred. This deactivation should reduce pain, increase muscle range of motion and restore function.
When the nervous system is appropriately stimulated a series of reactions occur that initiate the body’s natural healing response. Dry needling aims to trigger this response by altering the neurochemical reactions that are associated with pain production and healing. During this response neurochemicals such as Endorphins (a naturally occurring neurochemical that reduce our perception of pain) and Corticosteroids (a group of neurochemicals that are involved in the healing process. They regulate the body’s immune response and anti-inflammatory reactions) are released.
Common Signs / Symptoms of a Trigger Point
- Pain: due to the complex nature of musculoskelal conditions, patient’s pain descriptions can greatly vary. Some of the more common descriptions of pain associated with the presence of TrPs are; burning, aching, cramping-like feelings. The pain experienced often worsens after periods of increased activity, eases with rest, then increases quite quickly again once activity recommences.
- Decreased Range of Motion: stiffness and/or difficulty moving a muscle and/or joint may indicate the presence of increased tension within the muscle.
- Weakness: the presence of increased tension within a muscle contributes to the development of muscle weakness.
What Causes Trigger Points?
Much of the research and opinions held by health practitioners propose that microtrauma and actue trauma may contribute to the development of TrPs.
Trauma (microtrauma or acute trauma) can develop as a result of any number of the following
- Lack of physical activity
- Sudden changes in physical activity
- Posture & movement habits
- Biomechanical abnormalities
- Occupational and/or recreational activities that place increased stress on the musculoskeletal system
Forster Tuncurry Sports Podiatry & Dry Needling
Dry needling is considered a passive treatment and is most effective when combined with active treatments (ie: exercise therapies).
Passive treatments assist in creating an environment in which your body will most effectively respond to active treatments.
Not all patients presenting with muscoloskeletal pain will have TrPs, nor do all patients require dry needling. This treatment is only recommended after thorough examination and will only be performed after gaining patient consent.
Information / references:
Simons DG, Travell JG, Simons LS. Travell & Simons’ Myofascial pain and dysfunction: the trigger point manual. 2d ed. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1999:5.
The above information is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a diagnostic and/or treatment tool. Dry needling should only be performed by trained/qualifed health practitioners. Talysha Reeve & Jake Cameronne from Forster Tuncurry Sports Podiatry are qualified in the application of dry needling.
Dry needling is NOT acupuncture. Podiatrists at FTSPodiatry are not acupuncturists and do not practice acupuncture.
The Podiatry Board of Australia acknowledges that podiatrists are qualified to use needling techniques associated with musculoskeletal treatments in the management of podiatric conditions. http://www.podiatryboard.gov.au/Registration-Endorsement/Endorsement-for-acupuncture.aspx