Dry Needling as a Physical Therapy Intervention

By: Alison Janky

Neurologic dry needling is a new service we are offering to our patients. You may ask yourself, “What is dry needling?” “Is that the same as acupuncture?” “How does the nervous system contribute to this?”

Dry needling (DN) is a technique that is based on modern western medicine to address dysfunction and pain in the body. It utilizes a sterile monofilament needle that is inserted into the muscle tissue that causes a micro-injury. This micro-injury increases blood flow to the area, breaks up shortened tissues, normalizes the inflammatory response, and ultimately decreases pain.

DN initiates the body’s natural healing response in the tissues which ultimately reduces pain and can lead to improvement in function.
Dry needling and acupuncture both utilize the same monofilament needle but the application theory to the human body is the key difference. Acupuncture is based on ancient Chinese medicinal theory that attempts to restore the energy flow through meridians in the body. DN is based in modern western medicine utilizing neuroanatomy and other areas of scientific study for application to the human body. DN will continue to develop as science evolves.

Why do we call it “neurologic dry needling”? There are different models within dry needling and each model is an effective clinical treatment. As research continues to be conducted these models will continue to evolve.

Neurologic dry needling is an integration of previous models of DN resulting in an approach that focuses on treating the individual as a whole. This comprehensive approach considers the response of the local tissues to the micro-injury as well as the reaction of the peripheral nerve and the brain to pain stimuli.

Dry needling is an effective form of treatment for most soft tissue dysfunctions. Your physical therapist will provide education and consultation to determine if this type of treatment is right for you.

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