I have had many people ask about trigger point dry needling as a treatment and how and why it works. Dry needling has been used, with great success, in the treatment of various cases involving soft tissue dysfunction and is something that I regularly implement in my treatment plans. Dry needling utilises the insertion of very fine needles into muscle trigger points (TP’s) in order to elicit a healing response. In order to completely understand how dry needling is effective we must first look at TP’s themselves. Trigger points, more commonly known as ‘knots’, are the band-like, painful points in muscles. Common features of TP’s, include being found in a taut band of muscle, being pressure sensitive and twitching when needled. On top of this, TP’s also have been shown to have increased electrical activity at rest. They also contain higher concentrations of inflammatory and pain-mediating cells, than regular muscle tissue (Shah et al, 2008). There are two types of TP’s, active and latent. The main difference between the two is that active TP’s will reproduce the intensity and type of pain, which you feel when you have an ache, or pain. Whereas, you will only become aware of latent TP’s when they are poked or prodded. So, active TP’s are clearly significant, but what about latent TP’s? Are they worth treating? Or should they be left alone because they are not truly causing a perceived issue yet? Taking a look at some of the evidence surrounding this paints a much clearer picture. A study conducted by Xu et al (2010) identified the following conclusions:
- Non-painful pressure becomes sensitised and therefore painful, in tissue with latent TP’s as compared to normal tissue.
- Increased incidence of muscle cramping in tissue with latent TP’s