Call it dry needling, call it acupuncture, whatever you want to call it – it works. Dry needling acupuncture therapy has shown to provide some of the best results in our clinic. But, what is actually happening when all those filaments are put into your body? Why is it that those teeny tiny filaments are so powerful?

Let’s begin with differentiating dry needling and traditional Chinese medicine (acupuncture). At IHS, we use the same size filaments as those used in TCM. TCM focuses on placing the filaments along the meridians or channels discovered over 3,000 years ago to be the most effective in all types of healing, not just musculoskeletal. Dr. Ma, founder of Integrative Dry Needling, states that dry needling is the evidence-informed practice of ancient Chinese medicine. Dry needling focuses on finding the trigger points aka those knots and ropes you feel in your muscles in order to restore tissue extensibility. TCM also tends to place the filaments more superficially whereas the depth of dry needling varies based on the muscle, tendon, or ligament being addressed.  Interestingly, Dr. Ronald Melzack found that more than 70% of classic meridian acupoints correspond to common trigger points. 

Now for the fun stuff. How can one little 0.25mm gauge needle be so effective? According to Dr. Ma, inserting a single filament with a depth of only 1 cm can break at least 1,000 muscle fibers. When pushed deeper, tens of thousands of muscle fibers as well as come capillaries and nerve endings are damaged by the filament. Now, multiply that by however many filaments have been inserted, and you can see how powerful this form of musculoskeletal treatment truly is.

You may be thinking at this point, why would these nice doctors be wanting to injure my tissue? This is because the brain is able to identify the trauma caused by the filament and direct your body’s natural healing processes to that area. Your cardiovascular, immune, and endocrine systems are able to target the damaged region and replace it with fresh tissue within just a few days.  Not only is short-term pathology addressed, but chronic pathology is also prevented by promoting self-healing and reducing both the mechanical and biological stress on the body. Another bonus – the filament is so thin that you barely feel it inserted – if at all!

Keep in mind that according to Janet Travell, after an injury, tissues heal, but muscles learn, they readily develop habits of guarding that outlast the injury. You do not always have to be in pain to benefit from acupuncture/dry needling. Myofascial pain involves tissue inflammation, tissue contracture, swelling, degeneration, tissue adhesion, scarring, and biomechanical muscle imbalance. All of these changes outlast the pain itself, which you may not notice until one day your shoulder starts to hurt, or your back is a little tense.  

In short, even without pain, there still may be trigger points and imbalances causing repetitive dysfunction throughout the body.  One of the purposes of dry needling acupuncture therapy is to lower the stress in muscles so that they can absorb more force during sporting activity and thereby prevent or reduce stress-related injuries to the musculoskeletal system. If the muscles are tight, they will pull on the tendons, causing the tendons to be tight, and so on and so forth. 

Here at Integrated Health Solutions, we have seem amazing results with dry needling acupuncture therapy. What were thought to be cases of frozen shoulder were actually just some dysfunctional tissues that were able to be relieved by dry needling and rehab after just 8 visits.  Presumed hip labral issues were overactive hip flexors that were able to be released via dry needling and some exercises to get the patient back to all activities of daily living. The cases could go on and on. Give it a try for yourself!

Content provided by Jennifer Brenneisen

Reference: Ma, Y.-tao. (2011). Biomedical acupuncture for sports and trauma rehabilitation: dry needling techniques. St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.