About Trigger Point Dry Needling
Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) is a newly recognized and effective treatment for muscular pain from sport and orthopedic injuries and conditions. The UW Health Sports Medicine Center and UW Health Spine Center are two of the few physical therapy clinics in the area providing this innovative service.
TDN involves the insertion of a thin needle (monofilament) through the skin without the injection of any drug or solution. This technique deactivates painful trigger points (knots) found in muscle tissue, which is termed 'myofascial pain'. TDN can be confused with acupuncture because they both use thin needles, but the techniques are not the same; thus, the two terms should not be used interchangeably.
Acupuncture is a branch of Chinese medicine in which specific points on the body are stimulated by the insertion of thin needles. With acupuncture, needle insertion is usually painless and relatively superficial, often without deep penetration of tissue, and tends to generate a feeling of relaxation.
TDN is a therapeutic treatment procedure that uses multiple advances of a thin needle into skeletal muscle that is tight and usually contains a 'trigger point'. The goal of the treatment is to create a mechanical stimulus and reaction to the muscle, often referred to as a twitch response. It is believed that this twitch response can affect the biochemical and biomechanical properties of that muscle. Most people will not even feel the needle penetrate the skin, but once it has and is advanced into the muscle, the feeling of discomfort can vary from person to person.
TDN can be an effective treatment tool for many orthopedic conditions, including acute and chronic pain from tennis or golfer's elbow, muscle strains, upper and lower back injuries and shoulder injuries. TDN generally has very few side effects.
A review article in the June 2013 issue of the The Journal of Sport and Orthopedic Physical Therapy analyzed 12 studies that investigated dry needling for treating arm and neck pain and found TDN to be an effective treatment for pain relief. Typically positive results are apparent within 2-4 treatment sessions but can vary depending on the cause and duration of the symptoms and overall health.