I have to start with an apology. This article does not concern acupuncture, as used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, at all, but rather its cousin “dry-needling”.
For our full article on acupuncture and dry-needling, please click here.
Dry-needling is offered by some chiropractors and manual therapists as an adjunct to other treatment methods, particularly when dealing with muscle problems.
The treatment involves inserting very fine needles into muscle tissue and may seem very similar to acupuncture to the recipient. There is definitely some cross over, but the principles governing the placement of needles are somewhat different and the scope is limited to muscular problems.
The term dry-needling was coined when researchers were examining the effect of anaesthetic and BoTox injections on muscle contraction. When testing non-medicated needles (ie. a dry needles) researchers noticed that the muscle relaxing effect was comparable with medicated needles, as long as the needles were inserted into a specific point within a muscle.
This forms the basis of dry-needling treatment today. It is used for instances when a muscle is contracting more than is desirable. A needle is inserted and, as long as carried out correctly, the muscle relaxes.
Further research has suggested that inserting needles into muscles also stimulates the release of pain-blocking chemicals. These beta-endorphins have a similar chemical make up to opioid painkillers, such as morphine and codeine, and are the body’s natural response to pain and/or damage.
Although dry-needling should not be painful, it does seem to improve the body’s natural response to pain and is particularly useful when other treatment methods are difficult, perhaps because of immobility, or when a person is suffering from chronic pain.
That said, it does not provide a solution for the underlying cause of increased muscle contraction or chronic pain. Accordingly, it is important that a proper physical assessment is undertaken prior to treatment to ensure all contributory factors can be worked on at the same time.