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Dry Needling: 10 Frequently Asked Questions

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is similar to acupuncture. Specially trained and certified healthcare providers use extremely thin monofilament needles and insert them into your skin to treat underlying pain. The "needles" used are thinner than fishing line and extremely sharp, both which allow the needle to puncture and enter the skin easily.

How Does Dry Needling Work?

Dry needling is extremely useful in pain relief. Often the pain we feel is due to trigger points, which are knotted, painful areas in our muscles. Trigger points can cause localized pain as well as refer it to other areas of the body.

When a muscle is overused, misused, or injured the blood supply is reduced, causing a lack of oxygen and nutrients. This causes an energy crisis and blocks the muscle from resting and repairing. As tissues around your trigger points become more acidic the nerves become more sensitive and muscles become more restricted in their movements.

The hair like needles used in dry needling are placed into trigger points, stimulating blood flow to the area and releasing endorphins in the brain. The increased blood flow flushes out the acidic build up, brings in healing oxygen and nutrients, and allows the muscle to relax and repair. The released endorphins act as pain medication, further reducing discomfort.

Needles stay in for 10-20 minutes. Once removed, most patients report immediate relief between 50% - 100% .

What Does Dry Needling Actually Do?

Dry needling is mainly used for pain relief, increasing mobility, and promoting healing. Conditions that dry needling are used for include (but are not limited to):

  • Tendonitis

  • Migraines & Tension Headaches

  • Back Pain

  • Neck Pain

  • Spine & Disk Issues

  • Joint pain/stiffness

  • Tempromandibular joint disorders (TMJ)

  • Muscle cramps

  • Strains

  • Whiplash

  • Repetitive motion disorders (ex. carpel tunnel)

  • Nerve Pain

  • Phantom limb pain

Is Dry Needling the Same as Acupuncture?

Dry needling and acupuncture are similar in a few ways. Both are effective in treating pain and both use monofilament needles. Both can add electrical stimulation to their treatment for added benefits as well. However, they also have several differences.

Acupuncture is over 3,000 year old and is used in Eastern and traditional Chinese medicine. It is used to balance energy in the body known as chi /qi. It is believed this energy flows through the body in meridians. Needles placed in specific areas of the body are believed to help re-balance this energy to promote healing. Acupuncture is use to treat a much wider variety of ailments than dry needling does, such as infertility, fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxiety, etc.

Dry needling is a Western medicine that is a few decades old and focuses specifically on trigger points, pain reduction, and healing of muscles. Dry needling uses fewer needles and has shorter treatment sessions than acupuncture. Also, the number of ailments treated by dry needling is smaller than the number treated by acupuncture.

Does Dry Needling Hurt?

Since trigger points are usually inflamed or aggravated, there may be some slight discomfort while the provider is pressing down with their fingers to locate the exact trigger point.

Dry needles are extremely thin (like a dog whisker) and extremely sharp. Some patients don't even feel them being inserted. Those patients who do feel them report a small prick.

It is important to lay still once the needle are placed, as moving can cause the needle to shift.

Once removed most patient report feeling a significant amount of pain relief. To avoid stiffness, it is encouraged to continue moving and/or stretching the area throughout the rest of day.

What is Dry Needling with Electrical Stimulation?

Electrical stimulation (E-stim) is a treatment used by healthcare providers for many injuries and illnesses. E-stim traditionally uses adhesive electrodes and sends electrical pulses that mimic the signals of our nervous system. When applied to a specific muscle the signal causes the muscle to twitch. These repeated movements expedite healing by improving blood flow and retraining the muscles. Such treatment can benefit individuals who have lost motor functions from stroke or other injury.

When injured, muscles will produce an acidic biochemical that causes soreness. To protect itself the muscle will spasm which produces more of the same biochemical. As the biochemical increases the muscle continues to spasm. This process keeps repeating, creating an inescapable loop. Applying E-stim to a muscle caught in this cycle will disrupt the pattern and will retrain the body to react to it's natural signals.

When electrical stimulation is targeted at a nerve it can block pain receptors, disrupting signals sent to the brain and offering pain relief.

When combining E-stim with dry needling, the adhesive electrodes will instead have a conductive alligator clip that attaches to one or more dry needle. This allows the electrical signals to penetrate deeper into the muscle and provide increased benefits and longer lasting effects.

While electrical stimulation may sound a bit scary, it is not painful. Levels start very low and are slowly increased at the direction of the patient. Patients may feel a tingling, similar to when your leg "falls asleep" and muscle may slightly twitch, but it is not uncomfortable or painful.

Individuals who should not add E-stim to their dry needling include those with a :

  • Pacemaker

  • Electrical simulator for pain

What are Dry Needling Side Effects?

Dry needling is a very effective, safe, and natural way to promote healing and reduce pain. While side effects are rare, they can include:

  • Temporary stiffness

  • Bruising near insertion site

  • Fainting (due to fear of needles)

  • Fatigue

  • Infection

Who Shouldn't Get Dry Needling?

There are just a few people who should not get dry needling. This includes people who are:

  • Pregnant

  • Do not understand the treatment

  • Post-surgical

  • On blood thinners

  • Clotting disorders

  • Have compromised immune systems

  • Are extremely afraid of needles

Is Dry Needling Available in Every State?

No, dry needling is only available in 38 states and Washington D.C.

States that do NOT allow dry needling include:

  • Hawaii

  • California

  • Oregon

  • Washington

  • New York

States that have no legal stance regarding dry needling include:

  • Minnesota

  • Michigan

  • Missouri

  • Oklahoma

  • Pennsylvania

  • Massachusetts

  • Connecticut

Depending on your state's laws, dry needling may be performed by a licensed physical therapist, athletic trainer, chiropractor, or medical doctor who has undergone dry needle training.

What Does Dry Needling Cost?

While dry needling has been used for decades, and has been proven to be both safe and effective, insurance does not usually pay for this service. Individuals who are interest in receiving dry needling will pay between $50 - $150 per. session.

Cost will vary depending on geographic location, individual providing the service, number of muscles being treated, time spent providing treatment, and location of service (facility vs office).

At Therapy Pros we try to offer the most benefit to our patients in the most cost effective way. Instead of charging per. muscle we treat each "body area", ensuring our patients get complete treatment of problem areas. We charge $50 for 1-2 body areas. Additional body areas can be treated for $25 each. Included in your dry needling session is a localized infrared light therapy treatment and topical CBD cream application.

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