Updated: Sep 8, 2021
What is a "Trigger Point"?
Trigger points are areas of hypersensitivity that can develop in your muscles. They will feel like "knots" whey you press on them. The trigger points can also cause more generalized pain that radiates down your arm or leg.
What Caused My Trigger Point?
Trigger points are caused by muscles that are working too much. Your mucles may be working too hard to compensate for:
1. An Injury
2. Bad Posture
3. Other Weak Muscles
4. Repetitive Activities
Research has shown an abnormal accumulation of pain-causing chemicals in these muscle "knots." These chemicals cause the hypersensitivity, referred pain, and the "knot" that you feel.
What is Dry Needling?
Trigger points have been around for a long time. In the 1950's trigger points were treated with injected steroids and pain medications. This is called "wet" needling because the liquid medication is injected into the trigger point with a hollow hypodermic needle.
As new medications were developed, studies found the same results regardless of the medication injected. They even found injecting sterile water worked.
Since everything they injected worked the same, they decided to just try the hypodermic needle with no medication. The trigger point cleared up. Since there was no liquid medication in the needle, and the needle wasn't wet, they called this "dry needling."
Then they decided to try less painful, thin solid needles. These are the same type of needles used in other medical procedures like nerve testing. These thin solid needles are the same type also used in acupuncture. They thin less painful needles worked the same. That is how "dry needling" was developed.
What is the Difference Between Trigger Point Dry Needling and Acupuncture
Trigger point dry needling is based on Western scientific medical concepts. In trigger point dry needling, the needle is placed into the muscle trigger point. The trigger point is released, clearing of the chemicals that cause the hypersensitivity, muscle knot, and referred pain.
Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medical philosophies. The only thing in common between Trigger Point Dry Needling and Acupuncture is the needle. Both use thin, sterile needles to avoid the pain from larger, hollow hypodermic needles.
What If I Think I Have a Trigger Point?
Come in for an appointment. We will let you know if trigger points are part of your problem. If trigger points are causing your pain, we will go over dry needling treatments and you can decide if you want it to be part of your treatment plan.
Don't worry, if you don't like needles there are other ways to deal with your trigger points.
Christopher DiPasquale, PhD, PT, OCS, SCS, CHT is a physical therapist at Performance Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine with offices in Hebron and Colchester, Connecticut. He is board certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties in Orthopedic Physical Therapy and Sports Physical Therapy and a Certified Hand Therapist by the Hand Therapy Certification Committee.