Dry Needling is the insertion of an acupuncture needle into a specific point, called the AcupunctureMotor Point of a muscle, causing the muscle to “reset” to its proper resting length. The Motor Point of a muscle is the point at which the motor nerve, responsible for the muscle’s contraction, enters the muscle. When the motor point is stimulated with an acupuncture needle, there is often a “local twitch response” in which the muscle involuntarily contracts. This allows the practitioner to confirm that the correct point has been stimulated. Stimulation of the motor point of a pathologically tight muscle causes that muscle shut down momentarily, basically resetting the muscle, allowing tension to be instantly released. In this sense, it is often compared to pressing the reset button on an electrical outlet or computer.
Another use of dry needling is to stimulate an inactive muscle. As mentioned, sometimes muscles are neurologically excited to a pathological level, in which case the needle acts to reset and release tension. Other times, a muscle is dysfunctional because it is inactive, having not been stimulated or used properly in years and through stimulation of the motor point, it is like waking that muscle from a deep sleep. In either case, it is important for the practitioner to follow the treatment with reinforcement and reloading of the muscle through proper exercise prescription.
Although an acupuncture needle is often used in dry needling, it is not considered as acupuncture. Acupuncture is holistic whereas dry needling targets a single pathological muscle at a time. Dry needling received its start via western medical research, as opposed to Traditional Chinese Medicine practices. Dry needling was compared in the lab to “wet needling”, in which pain- relieving substances, namely lidocaine, were injected directly into trigger points. Through this research, it was found that the pain relieving effect of the needle alone had a far more important role than the substance being injected.
Both chiropractors at Choice Chiropractic & Integrated Health Centre use the technique of dry needling to effectively release muscles. As clinicians, we find dry needling releases muscles in less time per visit and often within fewer visits overall, than using our traditional tools. If you haven’t yet tried it, and suffer from muscular pain, weakness or dysfunction, we’d be happy to discuss whether dry needling may be the right therapeutic choice for you.
By Dr. Erin Kempt- Sutherland, DC