What is Dry Needling?

Dry Needling involves multiple advances of a fine filament needle into the muscle in the region of a “Trigger Point’. The aim of Dry Needling is to release muscle tension and pain via a local twitch response or the use of an E-Stim.

Greenacre Sports Medicine Clinic provides dry needling in Greenacre and is conveniently located to treat patients from Strathfield, Bankstown, Punchbowl, and throughout Sydney.

The needle used is very thin and most subjects do not even feel it penetrate the skin. A healthy muscle feels very little discomfort with insertion of this needle. However if the muscle is sensitive and shortened or has active trigger points within it, the subject will feel a sensation like a muscle cramp -’the twitch response’.

The patient also may feel a reproduction of “their” pain which is a helpful diagnostic indicator for the practitioner attempting to diagnose the cause of the patient’s symptoms. Patients soon learn to recognise and even welcome this sensation as it results in deactivating the trigger point, reducing pain and restoring normal length function to the involved muscle.

Dry needling relaxes contracted muscles. Since the presence of the needle in a tense muscle may be painful, the nervous system sends the appropriate feedback to the muscle to inhibit or stop its spasm. This spasm is often the cause of the pain or dysfunction experienced by the patient.

With our osteopaths having a combined 20+ years experience, they have found that Dry needling is quite simply one of the most effective treatments for chronic pain.

Is dry needling like acupuncture?

There are many similarities and differences between dry needling and acupuncture. The therapists performing dry needling at Greenacre Sports Medicine Clinic are not acupuncturists and do not practice acupuncture. In contrast to most schools of acupuncture, dry needling is strictly based on Western medicine principles and research and it is increasingly used in the management of musculoskeletal and sports injuries.

How does dry needling work?

The exact mechanisms of dry needling is becoming a lot clearer with new research. There are mechanical, neurological and biochemical effects. Based on the pioneering studies by Doctor Jay Shah and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health, we know that inserting a needle or using the E-Stim on trigger points can cause favourable biochemical and neurological changes, which assist in reducing pain. Dry needling is the first step in breaking the pain cycle. 

With recent developments in the dry needling field, the treatment approach of myofascial pain is changing. New approaches are utilising electrical stimulation (E-Stim) devices on an inserted needle to give effective pain relief. 

The latest advanced electrical stimulation technology, requires no needles to achieve the desired results we look for with traditional dry needling methods. These new methods achieve the same and better pain relief, with very little soreness felt after a E-Stim dry needling session.

What type of problems can be treated with dry needling?

Dry needling can be used for a variety of musculoskeletal problems and is especially effective for lingering, difficult to treat long term pain. Such conditions include, but are not limited to neck, back and shoulder pain, arm pain (tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, golfer’s elbow), headache to include migraines and tension-type headaches, jaw pain, buttock pain and leg pain (sciatica, hamstrings strains, calf tightness/spasms). The treatment of muscles has the greatest effect on reducing pain mechanisms in the nervous system.

Is the procedure painful?

At Greenacre Sports Medicine Clinic we now offer a few dry needling approaches.

The Traditional dry needling approach requires the use of acupuncture needle to elicit a twitch response. The twitch response can be painful.

The Electrical stimulation (E-Stim) of the treatment site does not require a twitch response. The E-Stim produces a mild tapping sensation and possibly a painless muscle contraction. 

The more advanced approach utilises an electrical stimulation device applied to the treatment site without the use of any needles (preferred approach for patients with needle phobias). The patient usually feels very little to no discomfort during and after the treatment.

What does Traditional Dry needling feel like?

Most patients do not feel the insertion of the needle. The local twitch response elicits a very brief (less than a second) painful response. Some patients describe this as a little electrical shock; others feel it more like a cramping sensation. This mildly uncomfortable sensation is necessary to achieve the local twitch responses and that is a good and desirable reaction. Some patients that are generally more sensitive will feel more discomfort than others.

Are the needles sterile?

Yes, we only use high quality disposable needles.

What side effects can I expect after the treatment?

E-Stim Dry Needling (with acupuncture needles-No twitch):

Mild ache after the procedure, lasting less then an hour in most cases an can last up to couple of hours.

E-stim Dry Needling (No needles):

Mild ache after the procedure, lasting less then an hour in most cases an can last up to couple of hours.

Traditional Dry needling (needles with a twitch response):

Mild muscle tenderness is a common side effect after the procedure. The soreness is usually over the areas needled and into the referral pattern of the trigger point. Typically, the soreness lasts between a few hours and up to two – three days.

What should I do after having the procedure done?

Our recommendations vary depending on the amount of soreness you have and on the individual response to the treatment. Recommendations may include applying heat or ice over the area, gentle stretches and modifications of activities or analgesic medications such as paracetamol.

How long does it take for the procedure to work?

Typically, it takes several visits for a positive reaction to take place. However, some patients can respond favourably from the first session. It depends on the type of pain, location, referral patterns and how long you have had the problem. Typically, the longer the pain has been around the longer it takes to respond favourably to the needling. Most patients require between 4-7 sessions to see great changes in their bodies and pain levels

Why is my doctor not familiar with dry needling?

In Australia, dry needling is a relatively new method for treating myofascial pain and not everyone is already aware of this effective modality. It is most prevalent amongst Allied health therapies (Osteopaths-Chiropractors-Physiotherapists) and Sports Medicine Physicians. Feel free to inform your GP about this treatment option. It is upon all of us to educate others about new and innovative ways to treat pain.

Where does dry needling fit in the entire rehabilitation program?

Dry needling is the modality of choice when it comes to treating acute injuries, muscle spasms or muscle pattern imbalances. It is very common to initiate dry needling at the beginning of your treatment program to break the pain cycle. Once that is achieved, other treatment options are introduced.

Once I am feeling better, how often do I need to come back to maintain my progress?

Most of the time once the dysfunction or imbalance has been corrected the body will often maintain the appropriate balance. However, the musculoskeletal system is under constant stress from the demands of varying postures, gravity, psychological and emotional states etc. A regular exercise program combined with good posture can prevent many problems. If the pain comes back, occasional sessions are recommended to treat and prevent serious injuries.

I am not comfortable with needles. Do I have to have Dry needling?

No. Before any procedure the therapists performing the dry needling at Greenacre Sports Medicine Clinic will always inform you and your consent is mandatory.

Our therapist may also utilise the E-Stim without the needles to achieve the desired results.

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