When you contact a chiropractic clinic for an appointment to treat your back or neck pain, ask about a therapy known as dry needling. This therapy, which is somewhat similar to acupuncture, can be very effective as an adjunct treatment for pain.
What Does Dry Needling Involve?
Dry needling is the process of inserting needles into the muscles to relieve pain and stimulate healing. Related therapies include the injection of a local anesthetic to relieve pain or an irritating solution of dextrose liquid or saline to promote healing, a procedure known as prolotherapy. That's why this particular treatment is called dry needling.
What Types of Needles Are Used?
Dry needling can use either solid or hollow needles. The hollow needles are thicker than the solid filament ones and can be used to inject solutions; they are technically known as hypodermic needles. Acupuncturists use the same solid, thin filament needles in their practice, but acupuncture is not the same as dry needling.
How is Dry Needling Distinct From Acupuncture?
Not only chiropractors but physical therapists offer dry needling therapy. These practitioners insert the needles into sensitive trigger points identified in myofascial pain, or pain resulting from muscle irritation. Acupuncturists, in contrast, insert needles into specific acupuncture points along meridians that link different areas of the body.
Acupuncture is thought to be helpful not only for pain relief but for resolving issues such as allergies and certain illnesses. In contrast, dry needling is intended solely to relieve pain and heal torn, inflamed and knotted tissue in the musculoskeletal system.
How Does the Therapy Relieve Back Pain?
Chiropractors commonly perform spinal adjustments to resolve misaligned vertebrae, areas known as subluxations. The skeletal muscle can be irritated and inflamed because of these misaligned bones or for other reasons, such as overuse, strain and poor posture. Dry needling can speed pain relief and promote healing of the muscle tissue.
What Does the Research Say?
Research on dry needling has tended to focus on myofascial pain syndrome, a disorder causing chronic and debilitating muscle pain. Research published in 2013, for example, found that dry needling was effective for pain relief in people with this condition after six sessions over four weeks. Another study, also appearing in 2013, found good results for dry needling in patients with myofascial pain syndrome affecting the upper quarter of the body.
What Can You Do Next?
Ask a chiropractic clinic, like Gehrig Family Chiropractic Center, whether the therapy is offered there. Not every state allows chiropractors to perform dry needling, and not all chiropractors in states that have approved the technique are trained to provide it. Even if the strategy is not available in your region yet, it may be offered relatively soon.