You can experience instant relief from muscle and joint pain this winter with Dry Needling.
You may be feeling the full effects of the plummeting temperatures in your muscles and joints. In cold weather, the muscles lose heat and contract, which results in tightness. Range of motion is lost and nerves may become pinched more easily.
In winter, the atmospheric pressure on joints is decreased. This expands the joints, which stretches the tissues immediately surrounding the area. In turn, the nerve endings are irritated and pain occurs.
The good news is, dry needling can assist in providing immediate relief from both muscle and joint pain.
What is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is a manual technique that a licensed physical therapist utilizes to assist individuals suffering from general muscle and joint pain. It may be used all year long – not just during the winter months. It is just that the winter weather seems to result in the highest level of discomfort among those that are sensitive. This is why so many individuals pursue this type of treatment during cold weather months.
The “needle” that is used is not a traditional needle. It is a monofilament product that is as thin as hair and highly flexible.
During dry needling, the therapist inserts the sterile needle into the affected muscle or near the joint that is causing pain. This causes a contraction of the muscle and an immediate release. Upon this “release” the immune system is activated. This instantly increases the blood flow to the impacted region, which aids in the promotion of healing. This not only helps in resolving pain, it also reduces stiffness in the area, optimizes the functionality of the muscles, and improves flexibility.
Is Dry Needling the Same as Acupuncture?
While it appears that dry needling is the same as acupuncture, there are distinct differences.
- Dry needling actually places a focus on intense stimulation of the muscles in the area so that they will contract and immediately release. Acupuncture does not stimulate.
- It is a process that is based on a unique “channel theory” and uses the points in order to heal in a slow, natural manner.
- Dry needling is science-based and based on various levels of medical research and principles of the western world. Acupuncture stems from traditional types of Chinese medicine.
Which is More Effective – Dry Needling or Acupuncture?
While both dry needling and acupuncture are considered to be effective, research has established that dry needling is much more effective in reducing both pain and sensitivity within the muscles and the joints of the body.
Common Culprits of Aches and Pain in the Winter Months
As mentioned previously, cold weather results in different changes within the muscles and around the joints that may result in pain. In addition to the previously-mentioned causes, the following may also have a detrimental impact on those that are sensitive to the changes to the conditions of the winter months:
- Barometric Pressure Changes – The muscles, tendons, and even scar tissue in the body will undergo a process of expansion and contraction due to the barometric pressure changes that occur during the winter months. As a result, pain is often experienced.
- Joint Fluid Changes – When the outdoor temperatures drop, the fluid in and around the joints within the body may start to thicken. When this happens, the joints experience a state of stiffness, which often results in pain.
- Inactivity – During the winter months, temperatures drop, rain is common, snow may fall, and ice may develop. As a result, most individuals stay inside to avoid the environmental conditions. When a person fails to move as often as usual, pain and stiffness may negatively impact the muscles and the areas surrounding the joints.
What is the Dry Needling Procedure Like?
Dry needling is considered to be a minimally invasive procedure that is performed by a physical therapist. It is used to treat pain, impairments that are functional-based, and various types of physical disabilities. The dry needles are inserted directly within the skin and no injection is given. This allows the practitioner to focus their energy on targeting areas of the body that may not benefit from other types of manual therapy.
The needles that are used in the dry needling procedure are inserted in a subcutaneous manner into various components of the body. These may include ligaments, tendons, neurovascular bundles, fascia, peripheral nerves, and even scar tissue. The needles are then capable of altering the structures themselves and the functionality of the body. Most cases involve inserting the needles into special knots within the skeletal muscle. These are identified among professionals as “myofascial trigger points” or “MTrP”, for short.
Once the dry needles are inserted into the trigger points, they rub against the nerve endings. This – in turn – initiates what is called a “local twitch response”. This causes a relatively strong neural-based impulse. This provides a kind of break in the trigger point circuitry of the body, which aids in the overall relief of pain.
Is There Anyone Who Should Not Have Dry Needling Performed?
Physical therapists will conduct a variety of assessments in order to determine the best course of action for a patient. Those who are not considered to be a good candidate for dry needling include the following:
- Needle Phobia – If an individual is frightened of needles, they may not be an ideal candidate; however, some physical therapists have found that if such a person is educated on the procedure that may undergo the procedure, even if they suffer from a needle phobia.
- Cognitively Impaired – Those that have a significant level of cognitive impairment may not qualify for dry needling because they must be able to understand the treatment and must give consent.
- Bleeding Disorders or Anticoagulant Therapy – If a person bleeds abnormally or is on anticoagulants, they are not considered ideal candidates.
- Metal Allergies – Patients that are allergic or even sensitive to metals such as chromium or even nickel are not ideal candidates for this form of therapy.
Are There Different Dry Needling Techniques?
Yes, there are different techniques used in dry needling. The following outlines each, with a short description:
- Myofascial Trigger Point Technique – This technique involves inserting dry needles directly into a trigger point to result in immediate release.
- Intramuscular Stimulation – This technique inserts needles at the site of the pain and in the paraspinal muscles associated with the segment of spine that is responsible for innervating the culprit muscle.
- Deep Versus Superficial Needling – This inserts a needle in the soft tissues that are located above the trigger points, but at a depth of up to 10mm. The needle is left in for a half of a minutes and removed. If pain continues, the process is performed again and the needles may be left for up to 3 minutes.
- Ultrasound Dry Needling – This simply uses an ultrasound machine to guide the needle directly into the trigger points.
Dry needling is so effective for so many things. Check out this infographic for a quick review of all the things dry needling can help.
Do you suffer from immense pain in the muscles or the joints during the winter months? If so, you may be a good candidate for the dry needling treatment. In addition to increasing your comfort during the cold weather months, this treatment may be used all year long. You may contact us here at Back to Motion Physical Therapy today to set up an appointment.