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Trigger Point Dry Needling (TPDN)

What is dry needling?
Dry needling is a technique used by two of our Osteopaths to combat muscle pain and tightness. The technique involves placing small, single filament needles into the area of tightness or pain. This stimulates the muscle, improves blood flow, and creates a local contraction in the muscle. This is comparable to the effect that massage and soft tissue therapy produces, however is far more local to the point in which the needle is placed.

Dry needling is used in the treatment of muscle "trigger points" - areas of muscle which might feel lumpy or nodular and are locally painful. (Sometimes referred to as "knots"). Trigger points can arise due to an area of muscle that is not receiving appropriate levels of oxygen. By stimulating the muscle, blood flow and hence oxygen, is increased.

Dry needling may cause a "twitch response" in the muscle that the needle is placed. This is an involuntary contraction of the muscle, which is beneficial as it causes an immediate relaxation of the muscle following the twitch. This helps in the overall "loosening" of the area that is tight. Studies have also suggested that natural, pain-killing chemicals (called opioids) within the body may be activated following the twitch response, leading to a decrease in pain at the site.

Further study is required to practice dry needling, which various Osteopaths at Berwick Family Osteopathy have completed.

How big are the needles?
The needles are approximately 22 times smaller than the average hypodermic needle used for injections at the doctor. They are about the width of 2-3 hairs. The length of the needle varies between 30mm - 75mm depending on the size of the muscle it is being used for.

What does it feel like?
Usually only slight discomfort is noted. The majority of patients report that it is simply a strange sensation and not very painful. The sensation caused by the needles can vary, and is dependent on the area being needled, severity of tightness or injury, and the patient's own pain threshold. As with any Osteopathic technique, your practitioner will only apply the technique with your consent and will not continue with the technique if it is causing significant pain or discomfort.

What conditions can Dry Needling be used to treat?
Dry needling is used in conjunction with other Osteopathic techniques to treat a wide variety of conditions. It may be used on most muscular conditions, however, after a thorough examination and assessment, your osteopath with advise you if your condition is not suitable for needle treatment. In particular, patients may present with the following conditions and the Osteopath, with your consent may use TPDN as part of their treatment approach:

  • Tennis/Golfers elbow
  • Shoulder complaints
  • Gluteal tendinopathy
  • Shin splints
  • Stress related pain
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Chronic Low Back pain
  • Sports Injuries
  • Many More

    How does it differ from Acupuncture?
    Acupuncture is based on Chinese Medicine principles, which involves special Acupuncture points correlating to various conditions throughout the body. Dry needling involves treatment of a specific muscle, with the intention to reduce tightness and pain. Many of the Acupuncture and known Trigger point locations do correlate, so sometimes treatment may seem similar, whereas other times it may seem quite different.


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