Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) FAQ’s – Superior Physical Therapy

Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) FAQ’s

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Trigger point dry needling (TDN) involves inserting a small monofilament needle into a muscle or muscles in order to release taut bands and decrease trigger point activity. This can help resolve pain and muscle tension, and will promote healing. This is not traditional Chinese Acupuncture. TDN is a modern, science-based intervention for the pain and dysfunction in musculoskeletal conditions and diagnosis such as neck pain, shoulder impingement, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, knee pain, plantar fasciitis, low back pain etc.

TDN is often a valuable and effective treatment for musculoskeletal pain. Like any treatment, there are possible complications. Although complications are rare in occurrence, they do exist and must be considered prior to giving consent for treatment.

Dry needling is very safe; however serious side effects can occur in 0.01% of people. The most common serious side effect from dry needling is pneumothorax (lung collapse due to air inside the chest wall). The signs and symptoms of a pneumothorax may begin after several hours of a treatment session and include shortness of breath on exertion, an increase in breathing rate, chest pain, a dry cough, bluish discoloration of the skin, or excessive sweating. If such signs and/or symptoms occur, you should immediately contact your physical therapist or physician.

Minor bleeding or bruising occurs after dry needling in 15-20% of treatments and is considered normal.

Nerves or blood vessels may be damaged from dry needling which can result in pain, numbness or tingling; however, this is a very rare event and is usually temporary.

Temporary pain during dry needling occurs in 60-70% of treatments.

You may or may not feel the insertion of the needle. However, the desired response is to elicit what is called a local twitch response of the muscle being treated. This response is very brief (1-2 seconds) and may feel like a deep ache or a cramping sensation.

A sterile and clean technique is used with trigger point dry needling to ensure safety. OSHA standards and protective equipment including gloves will be used to perform the procedure. Individually packaged, sterile, single use needles are used after cleaning the desired treatment area with alcohol swabs. The therapist performing the procedure will have an exhaustive understanding of anatomy and has had extensive training and education in the dry needling procedure.

Dry Needling helps to reduce muscular tension or “knots”. Reducing muscular tension can decrease feelings of tightness and associated pain in the surrounding area, improve flexibility and increase range of motion in order to improve your overall function.

Dry Needling when integrated with other Physical Therapy interventions can be very effective in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain by working to re-educate surrounding musculature and proprioceptors to allow for correct movement patterns to occur.

Dry Needling may allow you to perform activities you couldn’t do before!

You may have some soreness in both the area that was treated and the area with referred symptoms. This may begin the same day or even the next day and will usually last 24-48 hours (it might feel like you had a deep tissue massage or had a good workout at the gym). Soreness may be alleviated by applying ice or heat to the area and performing gentle stretching to the muscle treated.

Bruising from dry needling may occur. This does not always happen as is more likely to occur in areas such as the shoulders, arms or calf musculature.

It is also recommended that you drink an adequate amount of water after the procedure is performed to reduce muscle soreness.

Dry needling can be performed 1-2 times a week if desired and indicated. However, the same muscle group is not usually treated within 3-5 days of treatment sessions.

The number of treatment sessions resulting in reduction of symptoms and improvement of function varies from person to person and is also dependent on diagnosis/condition.

Often, dry needling is very effective if used 1-2 times a week for 3-4 treatment sessions.