A trigger point is a local contraction in a small number of muscle fibers in a larger muscle bundle. Essentially a portion of the muscle cannot relax. This constant contraction uses chemical energy and leads to accumulation of toxins (such as lactic acid). These tightened muscle fibers reduce oxygen intake and toxin outtake, resulting in a “chemical soup” within the muscle. When trigger points are present in muscles there is often pain and weakness in the associated structures. The triggers points can be caused by chronic muscle overload, acute trauma or micro trauma, faulty postures, bad ergonomics, a structural variation or psychological distress.
Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) is a technique performed by a licensed and specially trained manual Physical Therapist. Dry needling targets the trigger points, which is the direct and palpable source of patient pain, rather than the traditional Chinese medicine’s “meridians”, accessed via acupuncture. The procedure involves inserting a fine needle into the skin and muscle directly. In the process there is often a “twitch response” which is a spinal cord reflex in which the muscle fibers are essentially reset to a normal tone.
TDN restores the muscle’s segmental function (releasing muscle shortening and decreasing spontaneous electrical activity). There are often instantaneous gains in range of motion, as well as immediate pain reduction. The healing response is also stimulated as the micro-trauma of needling the muscle causes micro-bleeding, which in turn stimulates platelet formation.
Dry needling can be helpful for:
- Tendon disorders (plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, Achilles tendonitis, etc.)
- TMJ pain
- Tension headaches
- Frozen shoulder
- Decreased range of motion
- Muscle cramping
- Numbness/tingling in extremities
- Spine pain