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Dry Needling

What is functional dry needling?

“Dry Needling is a skilled intervention performed by a physical therapist that uses a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscular and connective tissues for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments” (APTA, 2012)

“Trigger points can be tender to the touch and can refer pain to distant parts of the body. Physical Therapists utilize dry needling with the goal of releasing/inactivating the trigger points and relieving pain. Preliminary research supports that dry needling improves pain control, reduces muscle tension, normalizes biochemical and electrical dysfunction of motor endplates, and facilitates an accelerated return to active rehabilitation.”  (APTA Educational Resource Paper)

Is functional dry needling the same thing as acupuncture?

The only similarity between this technique and acupuncture is the type of needle used. Dry Needling evaluations include a subjective and objective examination of the neuromuscular system. Needle insertion points are based on assessment and knowledge of neuroanatomy to deactivate hyperirritable spots within the muscle with a goal of decreasing pain and restoring function. This technique is just one small part of the treatment session. It enhances the patient’s ability to perform corrective exercises and/or the therapist’s ability to perform other manual therapy techniques to restore normal function.

Acupuncture evaluates the tongue and pulses. Needle insertion is along Meridians to balance energy.

•    What type of training is involved in Functional Dry Needling certification?

Therapists and physicians trained in Level 1 Functional Dry Needling complete 27 hours of didactic and lab instruction including a written and a practical exam. There is a significant amount of preparation involved prior to the actual course since an advanced and thorough knowledge of anatomy is required. All of the individuals who complete this training not only perform all of the techniques on others but also have the techniques performed on their own bodies.

•    What types of patients can benefit from functional dry needling?

This technique is widely used to treat acute and chronic musculoskeletal and sports medicine injuries. Injured muscles and tendons can develop “bands” of thickened tissue that inhibit proper contraction and performance. These thickened bands or trigger points can cause localized pain, referred pain, muscle inhibition, and/or hypersensitivity. Dry Needling these trigger points resets the biochemical properties and releases them so that proper muscle contraction can occur.

•    Are there any individuals who would not be candidates for functional dry needling?

Anyone who does not want to have the technique performed or has a fear of needles might not be a good candidate. We fully consent every patient and give lots of education prior to administering the treatment. They need to understand the contraindications and risks. We wouldn’t use the technique on someone during their first trimester of pregnancy, anyone with a compromised immune system, anyone with uncontrolled anticoagulant usage, anyone with a local infection or active tumor, or anyone with a history of lymph node removal. There are other conditions which warrant extra precaution but the most important thing is that your therapist takes a thorough history and fully educates you about the procedure. It is another therapy tool that can be used by your physical therapist and has to be part of a comprehensive treatment plan to address your functional deficits. Physical Therapists are movement specialists and this is a technique that can help restore normal movement patterns when used in conjunction with flexibility and strengthening exercises, training in proper body mechanics, and manual therapy techniques.

•    What can a person expect to feel after a session of dry needling?

Some individuals do not actually feel the needle at all during the technique. If an active trigger point is treated, there may be a twitching sensation, a shooting sensation that mimics the actual pain referral pattern, a deep dull ache, or a slight sting or mild cramping sensation.  Most people are surprised that the technique is really quite comfortable or at least very tolerable. Afterwards, there may be an immediate reduction in pain symptoms, or a little muscle soreness that subsides with resumption of normal activity. We actually encourage our patients to immediately resume their normal activities to reduce the chance of soreness. The main thing we look for is an improvement in mobility, flexibility, and strength.

•    How would a patient go about getting scheduled for functional dry needling at Frazier Rehab Institute?

If you call 63-SPORT or 637-7678, we can get someone scheduled at a location that is convenient for them. Most of our facilities have extended hours which allows people to have the flexibility to attend therapy before or after work if necessary. A physician order is not necessary but we do need a physician to approve their plan of care. Usually their family physician is willing to do this but we can also help facilitate a referral to one of our UofL Health sports medicine physicians.