Dry Needling

Many people think that dry needling means acupuncture but in fact they’re not the same. Acupuncture is a treatment practiced in traditional Chinese medicine which is based on a body’s energy flow (“Qi” energy).

Dry needling is a treatment modality practiced by physiotherapists and it is based on western medicine and the knowledge of anatomy and neurophysiology.

Dry needling involves inserting needles in trigger points, tendons, ligaments, skin and other soft tissues. The most common form of dry needling is needling to the trigger points, which is the tender “knot” in the muscle.

Dry Needling is used to eradicate ‘trigger points’ in the muscle system swiftly and effectively.

Trigger points in muscles can be caused by emotional stress, postural strain, trauma, fatigue, altered breathing patterns, sleep deprivation, infections and mineral deficiencies. Once a trigger point is established it can become self perpetuating and persist for decades until it is adequately released. If the trigger point is not released it can lead to altered joint motion and be the cause of recurring neck, hip and low back pain for example.

Dry Needling can physically break down the trigger points, ‘resetting’ the muscle and allowing for full strength and range of movement to return.

Problems that can be helped with dry needling:

  • Chronic back or neck pain
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Sports injuries
  • Tennis elbow
  • Repetitive strain injuries
  • Work related injuries
  • Motor vehicle injuries
  • Nerve root pain
  • Tight muscles
  • Ankle pain
  • Knee pain

Every treatment comes with the risk and it is the same with dry needling. There can be mild side effects such as tiredness or drowsiness for some people. Your Clarence physiotherapist will discuss these with you to make sure it is ok for you to have dry needling before any treatment commences.


How does dry needling work?

  • Compared to normal tissue, a high concentration of chemicals which cause pain can be found in the trigger points. When the needle goes into the trigger point, it helps to normalise these chemical levels. Therefore, this helps to release muscle contraction and results in decreased pain.
  • It can help to increase blood flow to the area to promote healing.
  • It can regulate nerve communication in the nervous system to block the pain signal coming from the brain.
  • Needling to an area away from the pain may block the pain signal from the affected area.

Benefits of Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy means ‘healing by water’.

Exercise in our Clarence hydrotherapy pool has particular benefits for joints and muscles by:

  • Unloading of the weight of the body though the buoyancy of the water reduces stress on joints especially the lower back, hips knees and ankles.
  • Heating The warmth of the water allows for less pain, relaxation and ‘letting go’ of postural muscles to allow for better movement where stiff.
  • Compression of the skin with the pressure of the water, particularly when exercising, helps with return of fluid to the heart and reduces oedema.
  • Smooth resistance of muscles graded to suit all levels of fitness and swimming ability by varying the speed of movement. Equipment and water depth selection may be used to help increase range of movement, resist movement for strength, to stimulate better balance or a combination of these effects.
  • Practical function activities such as balance, walking, squatting and stepping exercises to be performed that may be too difficult to do otherwise. This hopefully will bridge the gap to improving land function too.

Treatment Procedures

It is usually best to have an assessment by our physiotherapist first to ascertain the extent of the problem and its limitations. Home exercises may also be of benefit and of course can be done more frequently. Advice may be given on how to better manage a condition, either to assist with healing, to try prevent recurrence, or to slow down progression.

Sometimes further treatment or hydrotherapy alone may be needed, or treatment may be combined with hydrotherapy to maximise its effect. For example, pre-pool joint mobilisation / exercise may be needed to allow for better movement in the pool or enable the progression of exercises without aggravation.

If safe and appropriate, an individual pool exercise programme may be prescribed to be continued in a group situation, without the need of a one-to-one physiotherapy session, so saving on costs. This is especially useful if it is found that “maintenance” exercises are necessary to control an ongoing problem.

A pool ‘treatment’ session may be described as Aquatic Physiotherapy or Treatment and is charged as a land session, whereas maintenance is described as Hydrotherapy and is charged at a lesser group rate—so benefiting people who are trying to manage chronic, or long term problems.

During the course of treatment it may be necessary to write to your doctor to inform him/her of your progress or outcome.