What’s the Point?

Dry needling is performed with an acupuncture needle, which is a solid filiform needle. I often describe it as very sharp wire. There is no hole in the center of an acupuncture needle, which is different than a hypodermic needle. A hypodermic needle is a hollow needle where the canal in the center of the needle is used to inject a medication or to draw blood.

Dry Needling

Red – Chinese Meridian. Blue – Trigger Points.

Why would you seek out dry needling? Pain is often of a muscular origin due to chronic “knots” (also called trigger points) in a muscle. Massage is helpful to release these but when trigger points are chronic, it is very difficult to release them thoroughly with manual techniques. Dry needling can be much more effective at releasing this chronic tension, but may also leave you with increased soreness for a few days. Typically, the day following trigger point needling, patients report feeling sore, as if they had an intense workout. This sensation is due to the treated tissue lengthening into a new position.

Trigger point needling may be performed using either type of needle with the difference being the practioner’s approach. If your MD performs trigger point needling, they often will inject a small amount of pain medication into the area when they elicit “the twitch” (fasciculation) in the affected muscle. Research has shown that what is injected is not necessarily what eliminates a trigger point; rather the result is reached through the act of needling the muscle until the twitch is produced. The twitch or jump that you feel in the muscle is actually a lengthening of the muscle to a more normal resting length as opposed to being tight and balled up, like a knot. This release is similar to what happens when you pop a water balloon. Fascia surrounds every muscle much like the balloon surrounds the water. If we prick at the fascia with a needle, we can release the fascia and the muscle twitches as it relaxes into a new, untangle position thereby releasing tension.

In the photo shown here, I have used a combination of a traditional Chinese meridian approach with an overlay of trigger point needling to the muscles of the shin. This is a highly effective method of treatment because the excess Qi, (energy), which is released from the muscles of the shin, needs to be diverted somewhere, much like floodwaters need to be channeled downstream. The red line represents meridian based treatment while the blue line represents the area where trigger points were released in the top of the foot and the shin of this patient. You can see the redness of the skin due to the release of pent up energy from the muscles. This is Qi moving from a stagnant point to movement.


Are you interested in exploring trigger point needling techniques as part of your wellness program? If so, please contact me at bob@movecolab.com.

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Written on September 6th, 2016 ,

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