The State of Dry Needling from Precision Physical Therapy

As in all scientific disciplines, theories about “how things work “, change from time to time. The practice of Dry Needling is no different.

In an effort to stay abreast of updated information, all Physical Therapists are required to attend Continuing Education workshops. Such was the case recently when Precision PT sent Thomas Bartolino to a seminar presented by Integrative Dry Needling, Inc.

Bartolino states that Dry Needling has evolved through several generations of theory and practice since its discovery. The first wave of thinking was that sensitive points, (Myofascial trigger points ) appeared in muscles and produced pain and a loss of motion due to muscle tightening. It was discovered accidentally that Dry Needling reduced many of these points and resulted in less pain and improved motion.

Next, we became aware from more research that specific points along the spine were also sensitive to touch and were connected to this process of trigger point activation in muscle so treatment began to incorporate these spinal points as well.

Shortly thereafter, researchers identified that not only did these sensitive trigger points show up in an area of pain, and in the spinal muscles, but they also presented in some discrete and predictable patterns in the body, among different patients! This allowed for a convenient “road-map”, for a practitioner to look as well as to treat !

Most recently, researchers have identified inflammation within a nerve ending, that can be demonstrated on Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The inflammation is now thought to sensitize the nerve, thereby provoking the nerve to release chemicals that cause swelling and reduced levels of oxygen within surrounding tissues. This inflammatory process causes a resultant muscle contraction and tightening, which then perpetuates the cycle !

This new approach to dry needling focuses on desensitizing nerve endings, thereby reducing the release of irritating chemicals and promoting relaxation of muscles. As the muscle relaxes, increased blood supply occurs, reducing swelling and enhancing blood oxygen levels. We end up with reduced pain and improved movement and we all know how we feel when there is less pain and we move more!

From its earliest discovery, Dry Needling was found to be therapeutic for many musculoskeletal conditions. As time goes by, researchers and clinicians have more and more clinical and scientific understanding of what’s behind this powerful intervention. We have long been confident with the clinical outcomes, and now we are gaining a better understanding of the science behind these outcomes.

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