“Dry needling:” modern techniques with ancient roots
“Dry” needling is a modern term used to described needling without injecting substances. The techniques of dry needling into pain-generating tender sites in muscles, as well as painful, stiff, or hypermobile joints, are described in classical Chinese acupuncture texts, and can be understood to include the modern technique of myofascial trigger point needling. Myofascial “trigger points” (MTPs) can develop from muscle strains, and bone, joint, disc and nerve injuries. MTPs can cause pain, tightness, weakness, and tenderness in the affected muscles, erode joint stability and function, and form a vicious cycle with the central nervous system, interfering with sleep and mood. MTPs are palpable as nodules or “knots” embedded in abnormally tight, fibrous bands of muscle. When pressed or on stimulated, MTPs reproduce recognizable patterns of referred pain to adjacent body regions.
Needling myofascial trigger points can help:
— Reduce muscular pain and tenderness
— Activate muscle reflexes (‘twitches”) that restore normal length, tone, strength and elasticity
— Move blood and lymph through tight, adhered muscle bands, removing wastes and bringing in new oxygen and nutrients to repair injured tissues
Needling ligaments and joint tissues can help:
— Decrease joint pain and vulnerability to repeated sprains.
— Strengthen stretched-out sprained ligaments and connective tissues.
— Improve joint range-of-motion and stability.
Dry needling can be combined with other acupuncture and electroacupuncture techniques to restore normal muscle function and improve joint stability and range-of-motion. It can also be combined with active suction cupping, gua sha, tui na and other manual therapies, as well as therapeutic exercises, to help reduce pain and improve posture, ergonomics, and sport activities.
Anthony Von der Muhll, L.Ac., is one of the few acupuncturists in the USA who has completed both Doctoral-level training in classical Chinese acupuncture and is certified by Myopain Seminars as a Myofascial Trigger Point Therapist (the oldest and most rigorous dry needling program taught by Physical Therapists in the USA). He now practices and teaches an approach that integrates classical acupuncture with modern dry needling.