Trigger point dry needling (TDN) is also known as intramuscular stimulation (IMS) and dry needling. It is similar to acupuncture in the sense that a solid filament needle is inserted and manipulated under the skin to release endorphins and serum cortisol for pain relief. But, this is where the similarity ends. Trigger point needling is based on western neuroanatomy and modern scientific study of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. It is used for the assessment and treatment of myofascial pain syndromes and dysfunction due to myofascial trigger points / tension areas / muscle spasm / increased tonicity (the direct and palpable source of patient pain).
Trigger point dry needling targets the myofascia (connective tissue covering the muscles) lying just below the skin, including trigger points, and achieves pain relief by inactivating these trigger points at the muscle cell level. This relaxes the muscles due to the release of shortened bands of muscle fibers and stimulation of collagen and protein formation. 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.
What is myofascial pain?
Myo is the muscle. Fascia is tough connective tissue that looks similar to a spider's web or sweater. In one continuous structure, it covers every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein. It also covers all internal organs. When the fascia is injured, it can put pressure on anything to which it is connected and can cause local or referred pain, tightness, stiffness and limited movement of the affected area. Myofascial pain is chronic pain and inflammation in the fascia. It can result from muscle injury or repetitive strain.
What are trigger points?
Trigger points are tight, tender points within a tight band of muscle, which can be made worse with activity or stress. Trigger points can cause pain, tingling, burning, weakness and other symptoms. They are commonly known as "muscle knots" and they can mimic other problems because they will refer pain to other places on the body. For example, a trigger point in the upper part of the shoulder may refer pain up the neck to the head, causing what would appear to be a tension headache or even a migraine.
How does dry needling relieve myofascial and trigger point pain?
Dry needling involves insertion and repetitive manipulation of the needle in the 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 strengthening 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.
Do you have myofacial or trigger point pain resulting from muscle overuse or an injury? If so, give us a call. We will be happy to help.