Dry needling is a form of physical therapy that is used to treat pain, rehabilitate injuries, restore strength and mobility, and target various other conditions that affect skeletal muscles in the body. As with any physio treatment however, there are some things to be aware of. So let’s look at dry needling side effects, what to expect from a treatment, and how this form of therapy can help you.
What Is Dry Needling and How Does It Work?
Before looking at the side effects lets look at what dry needling is and how it works. Dry needling is a form of treatment that works by pushing thin solid needles into myofascial trigger points all over the body. The treatment works by stimulating the body to make twitch responses and this gives the patient a great deal of pain relief.
The wonderful thing about this form of treatment is that it’s not painful, invasive, doesn’t use any medicines or chemicals, and can produce immediate results. It’s also required to be used over longer periods for some patients as part of an ongoing physio treatment plan.
It presents a unique and natural approach to dealing with chronic pain and injuries. It sounds similar to acupuncture, but it’s quite different in execution. Dry needling is based on scientific research and is always been further developed as new information is found.
Things to Be Aware of before You Have a Treatment
Before you have a dry needling session you will have a short consultation with your physio or therapist, even if you’ve been referred by another doctor. It’s important for the physio that will be carrying on the treatment to be aware of your medical history and current state of health.
It’s always within the patient’s interest to ask any questions they have so they know exactly what to expect. You get the most out of the treatment by being relaxed and comfortable. It’s supposed to be relaxing, not painful.
Side Effects of Dry Needling
As with any treatment, there are some potential side-effects. Even with a treatment as safe as dry needling. The following are possible side-effects.
Pain – Generally speaking it’s pain-free for most patients. After the treatment, however, you may experience more pain in the areas of your body than before the treatment. This usually lasts for a few hours, or in some peoples cases a few days. This pain is the result of your body twitching in the area that was treated a lot more due to the myofascial trigger points being stimulated.
Infection – There is a low risk of infection. Needles are being used to pierce the skin, and although you have to assume the physio is doing all the right things to keep everything sanitised, there is always a risk of infection.
Bruising – If a needle in inserted directly into an artery or vein there is a chance of bruising developing as the blood escapes under the skin. It will be a little sensitive to touch for a few days but will clear up.
Paresthesia – This means the patient will feel an abnormal sensation like prickling or tingling on the area that was treated. This may happen if a needle touched a nerve. The symptoms typically only last a couple of days as most and will completely clear up.
Treatment and Aftercare
It’s important to remember that dry needling is not a complete treatment on its own that cures serious health issues. It’s used alongside other forms of physical therapy to completely rehabilitate an injury or retrain parts of your body.
The goal is to be pain-free, so carrying out exercises to being back muscle strength and mobility is important. A lot of your treatment plan will be on you to carry out at home. Your therapist will discuss and explain everything you need to know.
It’s hard to say how many treatments you will need. It varies for everyone and depends on the injury being treated. It’s not uncommon to go through several treatments, however, and you should physically be aware of how your body is feeling and healing.
With these dry needling side effects weighed up against all the positive upsides it’s an easy decision for most people. If you feel like you have an injury that could benefit from this form of treatment then I recommend you go ahead.
I’m a MA, (CMT) Certified Massage Therapist, Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), and Reiki Master — I’m a licensed massage therapist with over 10 years of experience in the industry.