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The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists

Dry Needling – What is it and how does it work?

What is Dry Needling?

Many people have heard of Dry Needling but few are aware of what it actually is or how it works.

Dry Needling is the act of using acupuncture needles in a specific way to help alleviate muscular issues, and associated referred pain patterns around the body.

Generally speaking, the needle is inserted into the problematic area of the muscle and moved / twirled in specific ways to allow the muscle to relax and promote healing. This treatment method is designed so that the patient does not feel sharp pain, but a dull discomfort is normal and a sign that the treatment is working.  Any discomfort is very manageable and not something to be fearful of.

Dry Needling addresses muscular Trigger Points (commonly known as a Knot) in the muscle.

Trigger points can cause mild to extremely severe levels of pain both at the site of the knot itself
or refer pain elsewhere in the body. If you are suffering knee pain for example, the problem is not necessarily the knee and the pain may be referred from knots within the muscles around the knee.

Dry Needling encourages muscular relaxation, increased blood flow and release of toxins held within the muscle. Some patients report immediate results and some require a days rest post the treatment before results become apparent.

So how does it work?

This question is a little more difficult to answer and there is much debate over this.

There is ongoing research into the mechanism by which dry needling (and other treatments such as massage) help pain and function.
There are mechanical and biochemical effects.

Based on the pioneering studies by Dr. Jay Shah and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health, we know that inserting a needle into trigger points can cause favourable biochemical changes, which assist in reducing pain. It is essential to elicit so-called local twitch responses, which are spinal cord reflexes. Local twitch response with dry needling is the first step in breaking the pain cycle.

Dry needling is used commonly all around the world at the highest level of sport and rehabilitation for a good reason. It does work.

And if the treatment is safe and it works, does it matter exactly why? We can leave those questions to the academics!!

If you wish to make an appointment to see a Chartered Physiotherapist for Dry Needling, or any other type of treatment, visit or Call 091 569706.

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