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What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling... so then what is wet needling?


No joke, I have had at least 5 people ask me this!


Okay okay, jokes aside, let's get right into this week's blog.


What exactly is dry needling?


As movement and muscle based chiropractors, we like to have as many tools in our toolbelt as we can to provide you with the best care possible. Both practitioners have had success in the past getting dry needled, so we figured why not offer it here?


At it's basis, dry needling uses thin, monofilament, single use needles, to help stimulate muscles. We essentially take the needle and stick it right into the muscle belly (not your belly belly, but the middle of the muscle fibers)


I think the best way to answer all your questions, is with a rapid fire FAQ:


 

Is it the same as acupuncture?


Yes...... and no.


Yes, because we use similar needles, that are very, very thin. But, that is really the only thing they have in common.


Acupuncture is more based on ancient Chinese medicine to help balance out different meridian points in the body. We don't use dry needling for sleep, stress, fertility, or other non-musculoskeletal based conditions. Dry needling is strictly for muscles/joints/anything musculoskeletal.


Someone certified in acupuncture is not certified in dry needling, and someone certified in dry needling is not certified to do acupuncture.


 

How does it work?


There are bunch of different ways that dry needling 'works'.


#1: Think about it like a micro-injury to the muscle. When your muscle gets 'injured', your brain sends nutrients, blood flow, and healing properties to the area to help heal the area.


#2: It increases local blood flow, circulation, promotes muscles twitches, and stimulates the muscle. Kind of like point #1, we are drawing a lot of attention to the area.


We find tighter bands of muscles that are around your area of pain, sort of similar to a muscle knot. These knots are tight, don't move well, and are stuck. When we stimulate the area, we are helping the muscle relax and improving the muscle tone


 

What does it feel like?


We won't lie to you, sometimes it can be a little tender/sharp, because, well, we are poking you with a needle. Have we had people who have said it felt like a sharp sting? Yes. Have we had people who said they couldn't even tell that the needle went in? Also yes. It is all up to chance.


There is a small chance, too, that we hit a structure, such as a hair follicle, which can be extra sensitive. If so, we just pull it right out, and just move the needle a little.


The most common sensations is a mild dull ache, that mostly dissipates once the needle is fully in the muscle


 

What does a typical treatment look like?


First, we snag a consent from you, making sure that you are a good candidate for the treatment. Next, we find the areas that we want to needle through palpation. The needle is then inserted to whatever pre-determined depth we have. Sometimes we twist the needle a little, but otherwise it just vibes there for a few minutes. During this time, we just relax and let it do its thing. Sometimes we can hook electrical currents up to it to help stimulate the muscle even more. Then, we pull them out, and you are good to go!


 

Is this different than muscle scraping?


Definitely! While there are some areas that we think can benefit just as much from muscle scarping, some deeper areas, like your glutes, hamstrings, paraspinals, and more, are too deep for us to reach with tools. This is where the needling comes in handy!


 

What area can you needle?


If there is a muscle there, we can needle it! After doing this for a couple months now, the most common areas that we have needled include:


  • Upper traps - great for those with upper back/neck pain

  • Glutes - such as your glute medius and piriformis

  • Calves - with runners, those with plantar fasciitis, shin splints

  • Forearms - tennis players, golfers, office workers

  • Low Back - those who sit often, disc herniations, or just low back pain

  • Shoulders - rotator cuff tendonitis/tears, shoulder immobility


 

Who can't get needled?


  • Kids - We don't typically needle kids, since they can't sit still. We will start around age 12, as long as we have the parent's consent and we think they can sit still

  • Those with blood born infections

  • Pregnancy - We don't needle pregnant women who are earlier than 6 weeks, or nearing the end of their pregnancy

  • Those on blood thinners

  • Those scared of needles


 

How often do I need it?


Okay, this is a tough question. Some people have had weekly treatments until symptoms resolve. Some people have had it once and felt immensely better. We don't have a great answer for you, and it just depends on the person


 

What are the side effects?


Besides feeling better? The most common side effects include bruising at the site of insertion, mild pain, and soreness. Nothing too crazy! If we are working over the thoracic spine, we needle over ribs or away from the lungs, to reduce the chance of a pneumothorax.


 

Are you sold? If not, that is okay! It is not for everyone. But, we can promise you that everyone has said that is not as scary as it sounds, it helps, and they would like to do it again.

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