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What is Dry Needling?

What is Dry Needling?

As it relates to acupuncture, dry needling is a separate practice which targets specific trigger points. While the two forms of therapy are thought of as going hand-in-hand, there are specific differences in terms of practice and expected result. Thrive Spine and Sports Rehabilitation is a physical therapy clinic offering acupuncture and dry needling therapy services. Patients coming to the Belmar and Freehold offices find benefits and physical recovery results when working with dry needling experts like acupuncturist Clint Price, or Thrive’s founder, AJ Adamczyk.

The Basics of Dry Needling

When lumping together dry needling and acupuncture, many individuals ask: What is dry needling; and how is dry needling different from acupuncture? The basic premise is the same: The use of paper-thin needles to target pressure points, relieve tension, and promote healing.

Having said that, dry needling is a more specific practice and is sometimes called intramuscular stimulation. But no need to get confused by this healthcare jargon. Dry needling treatment targets myofascial trigger points–which are basically just tight or stiff areas of connective tissue.

Traditional acupuncture may target distal points–or acupuncture points located on the body that are not close to the area being treated, such as the hip, knee, ankle, or foot… While acupuncture is more of a holistic treatment which can have many physical and mental benefits; dry needling is specific to one area with pain, tightness, injury, or discomfort.

Dry needling is performed by acupuncturists who target muscular knots (or trigger points) by poking them with a very thin needle. With a slight jostle and feeling of discomfort, acupuncturists who perform dry needling for patients will help muscles “let go” of tension so that patients can find relaxation and decrease in pain.

Many acupuncturists–like those professionals at Thrive–also perform dry needling as one portion of a greater acupuncture and physical therapy recovery plan. Patients go to acupuncturists after sports injuries or surgeries. Additionally, patients will seek dry needling or acupuncture treatment after acute pain springs up out of a strange motion or stressful day. And of course, patients seek dry needling therapy to deal with or support chronic pain or worsening physical symptoms.

The Benefits of Dry Needling

The practice of dry needling is all about stimulating tight muscles to make them contract or twitch. The result and major benefits are a decrease in tightness and pain, as well as an increase in blood flow.

After a couple sessions of dry needling, patients will notice muscle knots will break up, and return to their normal state and functionality. By targeting trigger points with direct needles beneath the skin, there’s a better chance of tension relief–as opposed to a massage where the stimulation is above the skin.

Dry needling can halt the referral of pain from trigger points to associated areas on the body. Not only does dry needling provide quick pain relief, but this form of physical therapy will allow patients to recover at a faster rate from injury or longstanding pain and discomfort.

Overall, dry needling is another form of acupuncture that is an all-natural way to heal.

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Possible Side-Effects of Dry Needling

Patients should note that dry needling is a slightly more aggressive form of acupuncture where the acupuncturist is targeting specific pressure points to stimulate natural healing, as well as pain and tension relief. For this reason, patients will notice muscle twitching and stimulation immediately.

The acupuncturist will insert the needle and massage or jostle it in an area to ensure the target point has been reached. With dry needling (more than regular acupuncture or electro acupuncture) there may be more immediate pain and discomfort. However, these side-effects are short-lived. What’s long lasting are the physical improvements after the dry needling session.

Pain and swelling around the needle sites can be common but should never be too much of a worry. There should never be a time when pain from dry needling exceeds the level of pressure or pain that brought on therapy. In some cases, dry needling can lead to mild bruising or tenderness.

While the possibility is very low, there is a chance of infection when using needles. However, Thrive’s acupuncturists will always use sterile, single-use needles to prevent infection. Patients should clean the area of injection after receiving dry needling therapy.

For very sensitive patients, there is risk of dizziness or feeling of faintness immediately after the session. It’s important to move slowly, drink water, and relax directly after a dry needling treatment. What’s more, there is a chance patients may feel nausea or a headache–but this is not common.

Finally, there is a chance that dry needling can lead to drowsiness. However, this can also be seen as a benefit if the patient was in need of relaxation and/or sleep.

Dry Needling or Living in Pain

So, are the drawbacks of dry needling worse than the drawbacks of living with pain or injury?

Living with pain just means an individual will do less of what they love. Operating at less than 100% means that every task–from work to play–will be as difficult as the severity of pain.

What’s more, living and working through an injury makes an individual more accident prone. Even if pain is supported, there is a chance that sudden, unexpected movement could make an injury worse.

Whether it’s as simple as a quick turning of the head to watch a sports game, or when crossing through traffic–living with chronic pain will make these everyday tasks harder and open an individual up to the possibility of (further) injury.

Instead of dry needling, acupuncture, or physical therapy, people may resort to pain-numbing pharmaceuticals when they feel there’s no way out of chronic pain or injury. These individuals should highly consider dry needling! Quick pain relief will not last if an injury or root cause is not targeted! Using drugs to combat pain rather than an all-natural solution like dry needling may open a person up to new side effects. What’s more, using drugs instead of an all-natural therapy treatment will not bring a person any closer to living a healthy, pain-free life and thriving every day. Dry needling is not only an avenue that can cure pain, but it’s a holistic and natural therapy channel that has very few side-effects.

Book Dry Needling Sessions with Acupuncturists at Thrive Spine & Sports Rehab

AJ Adamczyk is the owner and founder of Thrive. He is a licensed acupuncturist who treats patients at Thrive’s Belmar location as well as Thrive’s Freehold office. As a result, acupuncture and dry needling is one of the main pillars of physical wellness at Thrive.

In addition, Clint Price and Aaron Park are two licensed acupuncturists who work at both Thrive locations. So, patients can receive top quality dry needling therapy and acupuncture care in Belmar or Freehold offices.

At Thrive, dry needling is always done by licensed acupuncturists! Some physical therapists or other unlicensed healthcare practitioners may “provide” dry needling after a weekend course, or online training. However, Thrive is the best choice for dry needling therapy because we have multiple licensed acupuncturists here to serve our patients.

Quick Case Study: Dry Needling for Calf Pain

For example, Price has used dry needling to combat calf issues for his patients at Thrive. When carrying out dry needling treatments in this scenario, Price works on the calf musculature. Price targets “taught bands” or muscle tightness by poking acupuncture needles into pressure points, and massaging these points to increase stimulation and begin natural healing. With the case of calf pain and tightness, issues can creep up… This means if the pain is neglected, the patient might experience discomfort in the back of the knee, into the achilles, or on the backside part of the heel.

At Thrive, the acupuncturists are focused on quality not quantity when it comes to treating patients using dry needling. Time is spent to diagnose root causes of pain and to provide a plan for dry needling sessions weekly over a course of time that is planned according to the severity of pain or injury.

Thrive’s acupuncturists are students of wellness–having themselves been patients over the years as active athletes. At Thrive, acupuncturists have patience to work with patients who have issues similar to what they’ve personally dealt with as well as have solved for others.

Thrive’s Approach to Dry Needling for NJ Patients with Pain or Injury

While acupuncture is more focused on stimulating the body’s natural flow of energy (aka qi in traditional Chinese medicine) and natural healing capabilities, dry needling is a more direct way to address pain and tension in specific muscles or connective tissues.

“They’re one of the same, but dry needling is more specific,” said AJ Adamczyk.

Thrive can offer dry needling or trigger point therapy as part of a holistic acupuncture therapy plan to combat pain, stiffness, discomfort, and more for patients. Dry needling is a more aggressive style of acupuncture that targets muscle tendons as well as pain, injury, or dysfunction at the source.

“[Dry needling] is very attractive to the athlete or active person that is recovering from injury to get back on the field… Maybe a runner or a wrestler–those are people who come here constantly. [Dry needling] is more for a specific injury than overall body recovery or internal issue–like traditional acupuncture is… [Dry needling] can be standalone or coupled with physical therapy for a shoulder or ankle that’s not healing fast enough… So, we’d recommend dry needling to that specific area for range of motion to increase and to speed up the healing process,” finished Adamczyk.

Dry Needling Frequently Asked Questions

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is a form of acupuncture which is more aggressive and works to target a specific area or pressure point to stimulate pain and tension relief, and to speed up the healing process.

What does dry needling do?

The benefits of dry needling can be many, or just a few. Overall, dry needling should be implemented to decrease pain and stiffness in one specific area that’s been an issue from past injury or longstanding chronic pain.

Are there negative effects to dry needling?

The most obvious negative effects of dry needling are immediate pain or discomfort when the acupuncture needle is inserted and massaged around a sensitive trigger point. However, the positive effects come later in long lasting pain and tension relief.

What is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?

Acupuncture therapy is more focused on stimulating the body’s natural flow of energy (aka qi in traditional Chinese medicine) and using distal points to promote natural healing; dry needling is a more direct and aggressive way to address pain relief and tension in specific muscles or connective tissues.

Are dry needling results lasting?

Patients should feel better after their first dry needling session. However, depending on how bad the pain and associated root cause may be, Thrive’s acupuncturists might recommend at least two weekly sessions for three weeks or more.

Dry needling or massage?

While massage provides pain relief and muscle stimulation on and above the skin–dry needling provides stimulation below the skin to kickstart recovery even faster.

Is dry needling legal?

In the state of NJ, physical therapists are allowed to perform dry needling therapy. However, the ruling is different in every state. To offer the best results at Thrive, every physical therapist who is doing dry needling is a licensed acupuncturist.

Who should receive dry needling?

Dry needling is best for athletes, active individuals, or patients recovering from injury who want to speed up the recovery process in a targeted way.

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