Dry needling as a brilliant treatment addition that we often use on patients to help speed up their recovery. We tend to use it simultaneously with other treatments like laser treatment and ANF, as opposed to booking patients in for standalone needling sessions.
While we think it’s fantastic, many patients are hesitant when we first discuss it, instantly linking dry needling with painful needles, or prolonged acupuncture sessions. Many don’t even know that we’re qualified to do it! So today, the Sole Motion Podiatry team are sitting down to explain dry needling, what it is, and if it could help your recovery, too.
In podiatry, dry needling may be referred to as trigger point therapy. It involves inserting very fine needles into trigger points in the skin to relieve pain by releasing the trigger point, allowing the muscle to lengthen, function and build strength effectively. Not only can it help with pain at the tight trigger point band in the muscle, but also with the referred pain in other areas of the feet and legs that trigger points can create.
Interestingly, the name dry needling comes from the differentiation between using a ‘wet’ needle that injects fluid from a syringe, and the needles we use that have no channel through them, keeping them very fine (and painless in some cases!)
As trigger points are quite obvious due to their firmer mass (plus you can feel them when we palpate your feet and legs!), we start by locating the trigger points, which are often in the calves. We then quickly and gently insert the needle, which is so fine that it often causes no bleeding or visible breaks in the skin, and so doesn’t require a dressing.
If we don’t see the trigger point release, which causes a twitch in the muscle, we may adjust the needle slightly, without removing it from the skin. This just involves manipulating the angle of the needle and isn’t painful – patients describe it more as an unusual sensation.
We leave the needle in only for as long as it takes to insert any other needles into any other trigger points in your feet or legs. We then remove the needles, and the needling is complete!
By releasing your trigger points, we not only help to relieve immediate and referred pain, but also improve the function of the affected muscle. This can assist your recovery from other problems such as:
Needling trigger points is backed by clinic studies, having been found to be effective in treating plantar heel pain. It may also improve your performance and comfort during physical activity by removing the restrictions on your muscles.
You may experience mild side effects like temporary soreness, bruising or bleeding at the needle site. This is not uncommon and not serious, with aches often resolving by the next day. As we only use sterilised, one-use needles, the risk of any infection is very low.
While the needles used are similar, the core principles are very different. Acupuncture is founded on the belief that when your chi is blocked, illness results. By restoring chi and balance to your body, you restore the healing energy and your body is able to regulate and heal itself. This is very different from targeting palpable trigger points in the muscles.
Our podiatrists have undergone further certification to be able to offer dry needling. If you’re already seeing us for a problem or injury, we will discuss dry needling with you as an adjunct to your treatment if we believe that it can help.
If you’ve never seen us before, the first step is to book in to have your pain or problem assessed. While dry needling can be beneficial in assisting recovery, it is often only one part of a treatment plan that is designed to optimise your recovery. It’s important to understand the other components and be able to make an informed decision about your care, as well as understand why you’re experiencing your pain or problem.