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What is Dry Needling?

Have you heard of dry needling? "Dry needling" or “trigger point needling” is growing in popularity particularly because of its adoption by physical therapists and chiropractors in Wisconsin. I utilize dry needling in my practice, but it is not the technique I use first for many conditions because it tends to cause much more intense sensations that not every nervous system can benefit from. Dry needling is a technique that uses an acupuncture needle to target trigger points ("knots" or areas of tight, ropy fascia) and stimulate a twitch response. Once the twitch has been achieved, the muscle is able to relax and naturally find homeostasis, resulting in pain relief, blood, and oxygen perfusion, and return of function. The technique can seem borderline magical when used appropriately. If a trigger point is the root cause of impacted functionality or pain, getting it to release fixes the problem almost immediately. However, dry needling is not the answer to every problem and I've heard many stories of patients trying dry needling somewhere and having a very negative experience. Dry needling is a relatively aggressive technique and is not appropriate for all body constitutions or nervous system states. For example, a highly anxious or acutely stressed person may indeed have trigger points that could be released, but using a technique like dry needling would probably have the effect of ramping up their nervous system activation and result in more feelings of tightness and anxiety. If you're interested in trying dry needling, I highly encourage you to talk with your provider about the pros and cons and get their feedback as to whether it is the best technique for your needs. Acupuncturists are trained in a large variety of techniques that take into account the whole person and how they are presenting that day.


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