There’s a growing trend overseas for sports injuries and other conditions to be treated with a technique known as dry needling. It’s something we’ve been doing at Cairnhill Physio for quite some time now, so as far as we’re concerned, it’s nothing new. But if you’re suffering from a sports-related injury or a painful condition of any kind, it’s something you may want to know more about.
As you would have worked out, dry needling is a variation on acupuncture with key differences. The biggest one is that dry needling is mainly focused on reducing pain and restoring function through the release of myofascial trigger points in the muscle. On the other hand, acupuncture focuses on treating medical conditions by restoring the flow of energy (Qi) through critical points in the body (meridians).
A myofascial trigger point has a more down to earth name: a knot in the muscle. It’s actually a group of muscle fibres that have shortened when activated but have not lengthened back to a relaxed state after use. A myofascial trigger point develops a sensitive nodule in the muscle, and to compensate, the remainder of the muscle tightens. Hypersensitivity occurs when the muscle fibres become so tight that they compress the capillaries and nerves that supply them. As a result, several things happen: the muscle cannot move freely and mobility is restricted, it can’t obtain a fresh blood supply containing the oxygen and nutrients it needs, and it is unable to flush out acidic chemicals. This leads to discomfort at best, and considerable pain at worst. It’s difficult to stay mobile and, in some cases, there can even be a loss of coordination
When this occurs, we can use dry needling in conjunction with conventional physiotherapy to decrease muscular pain and improve function. When the needle is inserted into the centre of a myofascial trigger point, blood pools around the needle. This triggers the contracted muscle fibres to relax which, in turn, promotes the local blood and nerve supply. It also assists in providing those fibres with fresh oxygen and nutrients and flushing away additional acidic chemicals.
By now, you may be asking what causes a myofascial trigger point. The answers are many and varied:
That’s a lot of different reasons to come to us and get that sports injury or any other painful condition checked out. It could be a myofascial trigger point and dry needling, alongside our other professional physio treatments, could be the answer to relieving your discomfort.