Trigger Point Dry Needling
What is TDN?
TDN uses a thin filiform needle (acupuncture needle) to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscular and connective tissues to manage pain and improve function.
Why might it help you?
TDN can be used for many conditions, including both chronic and acute. It is used to relieve muscle tightness and spasm, normalise muscle length and function, and relieve referred pain from myofascial trigger points.
Similarly, tight muscles in the spine may create compression on nerve tissue, affecting its mobility, and the muscles supplied by those nerves. Therefore, chronic low back and neck problems can benefit from a release of those spinal muscles.
How is it applied?
A thin needle is inserted into the local trigger point to elicit a twitch response in the muscle. This twitch response may occur several times throughout the treatment. Additional treatment may also be required along the spine to normalise the signal to the affected muscles to improve treatment effectiveness.
Occasionally, the needles may be connected to an electrical current to encourage pain relief and restore muscle function.
How does it work and what will I feel?
Most patients will not even feel the needle penetrate the skin, but once it advances into the muscle, the discomfort can vary from patient to patient. Usually a healthy muscle feels very little discomfort upon insertion of the needle; however, if the muscle is sensitive and shortened or contains active trigger points, the subject may feel a sensation much like a muscle cramp, often referred to as a 'twitch response". The patient may only feel the cramping sensation locally or they may feel a referral of pain or similar symptoms for which they are seeking treatment. A reproduction of their pain can be a helpful diagnostic indicator of the cause of the symptoms.
The twitch response allows the myofascial trigger point to release which reduces the tissue tone, and improves its length and functional recruitment. It also brings new circulation to the area, and flushes out irritants to the tissue. Patients soon learn to recognize and even welcome this sensation, as it results in releasing the trigger point, reducing pain and restoring normal length and function of the involved muscle. Typically, positive results are apparent within 2-4 treatment sessions but can vary depending on the cause and time period of the symptoms, overall health of the patient, and experience level of the practitioner.
Denise Mortley, Physiotherapist
Level 1 in Functional Dry Needling®