Dry needling is used by many osteopaths as another treatment modality and is often combined with osteopathic treatment. It is a form of acupuncture that is mainly used in the treatment of muscular pain. Dry needling or intramuscular stimulation targets tender parts of the muscle tissue known as myofascial trigger points. These points in the muscle can elicit a ‘twitch response,’ when pressure is applied directly over them. This is known as ‘a muscle fasciculation’ and is the result of an involuntary muscle contraction. Trigger points manifest in parts of muscles that have become chronically contracted due to postural tension and strain.
Myofascial trigger points can cause referred pain in defined areas of the body. For example, common trigger points under the back of the scull and can cause referred pain around the side of the head or behind the eye. In modern western acupuncture, these points tend to correlate with anatomical nerve pathways. In traditional Chinese medicine, they are mapped out as meridian lines.
The needles are inserted into the trigger points with a gentle tap onto the skin. Patients often describe a vague aching or tingling feeling, which is known as ‘Qi’, in Chinese medicine, as the needles are manipulated to allow the flow of ‘energy’ in the meridians lines of the body.