What is dry needling?
"Dry needling is a skilled intervention that uses a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscular, and connective tissues for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments. [It] is a technique used to treat dysfunctions in skeletal muscle, fascia, and connective tissue, and to diminish persistent peripheral nociceptive input, and reduce or restore impairments in body structure and function, leading to improved activity and participation."
Source: APTA document Description of Dry Needling in Clinical Practice: An Educational Resource Paper. www.apta.org/StateIssues/DryNeedling/.
How is it different from acupuncture?
"Health care education and practice have developed in such a way that most professions today share some procedures, tools, or interventions with other regulated professions. It is unreasonable to expect a profession to have exclusive domain over an intervention, tool, or modality."
"The practice of acupuncture by acupuncturists and the performance of dry needling by physical therapists differ in terms of historical, philosophical, indicative, and practical context. The performance of modern dry needling by physical therapists is based on western neuroanatomy and modern scientific study of the musculoskeletal and nervous system. Physical therapists who perform dry needling do not use traditional acupuncture theories or acupuncture terminology."
Source: APTA document Physical Therapists & the Performance of Dry Needling: An Educational Resource Paper. www.apta.org/StateIssues/DryNeedling/.
Trigger points are irritable, hard “knots” within a muscle that may cause pain over a large area, leading to difficulty performing everyday tasks. When a person has painful muscles and trigger points, it is sometimes called myofascial pain syndrome. Common locations for these problems are the arm and neck. Dry needling is a treatment that involves a very thin needle being pushed through the skin to stimulate a trigger point. Dry needling may release the tight muscle bands associated with trigger points and lead to decreased pain and improved function. In a study published in the September 2013 issue of JOSPT, a group of researchers analyzed the results of the best clinical studies that have been conducted thus far to determine if dry needling helps to reduce neck and arm pain.
J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2013;43(9):635. doi:10.2519/jospt.2013.0505