Dry Needling is also known as intramuscular stimulation (IMS) and trigger point dry needling (TDN). It is a safe, effective and efficient treatment used to:
- Relax myofascial trigger points, and
- Restore normal muscle tones, muscle length, coordination, function and strength
Dry needling involves insertion and repetitive manipulation of a “dry”, solid filament needle in a trigger point in order to produce an involuntary spinal cord reflex, also known as a local twitch response (LTR). This results in lasting muscle relaxation due to the release of shortened bands of muscle fibers for overactive (tight) muscles or the activation of under-active (weak) muscles. Deactivation of the trigger points can bring immediate relief of symptoms, so the therapist can immediately train the muscles to work with the newly gained pain free range of motion (ROM).
Dry Needling vs. Acupuncture
Dry needling is similar to acupuncture in the sense that a dry, solid filament needle is inserted and manipulated under the skin to release endorphins and serum cortisol for pain relief. The difference is that dry needling is based on western neuroanatomy and modern scientific study of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It creates balance in the body by influencing the flow of Qi (energy) in pathways called meridians to achieve pain relief and alleviate inflammation.
Conditions Treated by Dry Needling
Dry needling has successfully been used to treat a variety of conditions including:
- Head and Neck Pain – including whiplash and headaches / migraines, degenerative joint disease, degenerative disk disease or osteoarthritis
- Otological (Ear) and Opthamological (Eye) Pain – including tinnitus and eye strain
- Dental (Teeth) and Orthodontic (Jaw and Occlusal) Pain – including cavities, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, tooth impaction and root problems
- Shoulder Pain – including rotator cuff muscle tears, bursitis, adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder), tendonitis and impingement syndrome
- Elbow Pain – including lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow)
- Hand and Wrist Pain – including gamekeeper’s thumb, DeQuervain’s syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis
- Back and Hip Pain – including lumbar degenerative disc disease, arthritic changes and herniated discs
- Knee Pain – including degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis
- Shin / Ankle / Foot Pain – including shin splints, gout, metatarsalgia and Morton’s neuroma
- Plantar Fasciitis (Heel Pain)
- Acute and Chronic Tendonitis
- Athletic and Sports-related Overuse Injuries
- Post-surgical Pain
- Post-traumatic Injuries, Motor Vehicle Accidents (MVA), and Work-related Injuries
- Other Chronic Pain Conditions – including myofascial pain and myofascial pain syndrome (MPS)
Intramuscular Stimulation (Gunns IMS)
Gunn IMS is a dry needling treatment developed by Dr. Chann Gunn of Vancouver. Like dry needling, Gunn IMS is Western medicine based on science. It is based on Cannon’s Law of denervation supersensitivity. This means that when a nerve is not functioning properly (neuropathy), it becomes super sensitive (hyperactive) following denervation.
While Gunn IMS is similar to dry needling, it differs in the respect that it addresses nervous system pain via the muscles for such conditions as peripheral neuropathy and fibromyalgia. It is also used for the diagnosis and treatment of myofascial pain syndromes (chronic pain involving the musculoskeletal system when there is no clear sign of recent injury). Dry needling focuses more on releasing trigger points within the muscles to relieve pain and muscle tightness.
What is neuropathy?
Your peripheral nervous system connects the nerves from your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) to the rest of your body. Neuropathy (also known as peripheral neuropathy) is a generalized term used to describe any or all diseases or abnormalities (dysfunction) that damage the peripheral nervous system. The number one cause of neuropathy in the United States is diabetes.
Other causes include:
- Kidney Disorders
- Autoimmune Disease
- E, B-1, B-6 and B-12 Vitamin Deficiencies
- Inherited Disorders
- Certain Medications
Typical symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:
- Tingling and/or numbness in the hands and feet
- Sharp, stabbing pain
- Weakness and heavy feeling in the extremities (arms, legs, feet and hands)
- Excessive sweating
You may also experience sexual dysfunctions (especially men), digestive problems, constipation or diarrhea.
What is Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS)?
MPS is chronic soft tissue pain that affects the fascia (the connective tissue that covers and supports muscles and organs). It can affect a single muscle or an entire muscle group. Sensitive areas within individual muscles or muscle groups are called “trigger points”. Trigger points can be caused by acute or chronic muscle stress. It can also be caused by stress and anxiety due to repeated muscle clenching.
If untreated, these trigger points can cause such conditions as fibromyalgia and peripheral neuropathy.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic and body-wide musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder that is typically described as a constant dull ache lasting for at least 3 months. Pain is generally in the soft fibrous tissues, including muscles ligaments and tendons. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it affects about 5 million Americans. It is most common among middle-aged women but can affect people of all ages, including men and children.
Sufferers of autoimmune conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are more likely vulnerable to fibromyalgia. Other risk factors may include genetic predisposition, trauma, multiple surgeries and chronic stress.
There are no conventional tests for fibromyalgia, which is why it is best to find a physician experienced with diagnosing this particular condition.
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (part of the NIH), common symptoms that doctors look for include:
- A history of widespread pain lasting more than three months
- Feelings of fatigue and waking unrefreshed
- Cognitive (memory or thought) problems
- Pain in a high number of areas throughout the body in the previous week