Functional dry needling is a modality that is becoming more commonly used in treatments for musculoskeletal injury. But what is it? Often times patients may see dry needling happening in the physical therapy office and say, “Wow, I didn’t know you guys do acupuncture!” Well, we do not provide acupuncture at PhysioDC, but we do provide functional dry needling.
What is functional dry needling?
Functional dry needling is a simple looking modality that looks very similar to acupuncture, considering we use similar equipment. The theory behind this modality is very complex, but we would like to do our best in trying to have you understand. In dry needling, we are using a monofilament small diameter needle to be placed in a particular muscle. The needles may vary in length from 30 mm to 100 mm. The needle length is determined by the depth of the muscle that is being treated.
Once the needle has been placed in the desired muscle at the desired depth, the needle may be pistoned or have electric stimulation applied to help create the desired outcome. This is noted as the needle effect, which is immediate analgesia or pain relief. When it comes to long term benefits of physical therapy, I think most providers would agree that it is the restorative movement patterns that foster positive therapeutic outcomes. All of the modalities that therapists use are just to help our patients be able to practice restorative movement patterns. The modalities help decrease swelling, pain, muscle tension, and – in the case of functional dry needling – help to increase neuromuscular recruitment.
Who does functional dry needling help?
This modality helps those that are having trouble with achieving range of motion and neuromuscular strength due to pain caused by muscle tension. This treatment is not particular helpful for those that are suffering from other joint or neurological dysfunctions. Prior to getting treatment, the therapist would complete a neuromuscular exam that would involve discussing the history of symptoms. The therapist would then look at functional movements and check out the recruitment ability of various muscles. Lastly the therapist would likely palpate the muscles to see if there is any tenderness or palpable knots or trigger points.
Are there risks to dry needling?
As with all treatments, there are risks. Some are, of course, worse than others. A provider that is doing functional dry needling should have been properly educated and trained on safe and effective techniques. The historical intake will determine if there are contraindications or precautions for dry needling. The biggest contraindications to note, which we place on our consent to treat documentation, ask if the patient is pregnant, immune-compromised, or is taking blood thinners. There are other precautions to note that the treating therapist would rule out.
If you feel like you may benefit from this type of treatment, contact us and let us help you out at PhysioDC. We are always here for you.