What is Dry Needling and How Can it Help?

by Justin Maurizio, DPT, January 9, 2019

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Dry Needling (DN) is a skilled intervention performed by physical therapists at our clinic which uses a thin needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscular spasms, connective tissues for the management of nerve/skeletal pain and restricted movement. Trigger points are defined as palpable, tense bands of skeletal muscle fibers that can produce both local and traveling pain when compressed. DN is a technique used to treat said trigger points, overall dysfunction in our muscles, fascia (the fibrous netting encompassing muscle), and connective tissue.

One may ask how DN differs from acupuncture as both techniques consist of the insertion of a monofilament, sterile, thin-gauge needle, a needle that also happens to be used by acupuncturists. DN is not to be confused with acupuncture, as acupuncture is routed in traditional Chinese Medicine with its theories focus on the manipulation of specific energy channels, meridians, and the concept of chi, or life-force coursing through our body following these unique routes. However, DN works directly with needle placement into muscular trigger points, spasms and tender points identified on an individual. The practice of DN works on the soft tissues of the body—specifically the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascial tissues. The practice of DN is firmly based in Western concepts of anatomy, physiology, neurology, and biomechanics. The only parallel between both techniques is the thin-gauge needle or “tool” used.

The purpose of DN is to provide diminishing stimulation of pain receptors, reduce inflammation and restore impairments of body structure, thus allowing individuals to return to their normal lives with less pain and greater motion. Essentially, there are a few goals of DN. Firstly, to target and stimulate a twitch response, an instantaneous and brief contraction of the muscle to allow the muscle to release or unwind. Secondly, to neutralize irritated soft tissue and to restore and improve muscle and fascial function. Lastly, to disrupt the physiologically malfunctioning area by means of causing micro-traumas to the involved tissue, which aides in a localized kick-starting of the body’s natural healing processes.

Fascinatingly, various research revealed DN to be equally, or in some cases, more effective than injections of a localized anesthetic by a MD with a hollow-bore needle. This was discovered when patients were receiving instantaneous results after anesthetic injections, however, it was surmised that the drug could not act that fast and in turn be that effective. Further investigative testing of this phenomenon was carried out revealing that something else was going on. The main proponent of instantaneous relief felt by these patients was the actual mechanical action of the needle itself penetrating the involved tissue. This discovery coupled with the common knowledge that drug injection has limited value because of drug toxicity, in that sense, DN is widely considered a better choice.

DN is a beneficial intervention for a myriad of diagnoses, such as: neck and back pain, arm and leg pain, lower back pain, tendinitis’, headaches/migraines, muscle spasms, arthritis, joint replacements, fibromyalgia etc. Furthermore, everyone can benefit from dry needling, ranging from professional athletes to weekend warriors, and those behind a desk for the majority of the day. Consequently, DN techniques aide in reducing pain, spasm, soft tissue restrictions, and alleviate referred symptoms as soon as one treatment.

Justin Maurizio DPTJustin Maurizio, DPT,  graduated from the University of Hartford in 2012 Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy. He then completed his Doctorate in Physical therapy at University of Hartford with a focus on orthopedics in 2015.  Working in our Branford location, Justin treats patients from pediatrics to geriatrics with particular interest in sports related injuries, neurological dysfunction, and assisting patients with regaining their function. Justin continues to be very active in sports and exercise, which helps to keep assessment and treatment current as well as evidence based for the most accurate and comprehensive care provided. He is a dedicated physical therapist who above all is invested in the betterment of his patients and believes in the importance of individualized care. Justin can be reached for consultation at (203) 433-4683 or CLICK HERE TO REQUEST AN APPOINTMENT