Dry Needling is an increasingly popular treatment method being used by a variety of practitioners including Podiatrists. It is a treatment in which a very fine solid (filament) needles inserted into the skin and muscle directly at a myofascial trigger point. Trigger points are “hyper irritable” points within a muscle created by a thickened band or “knot” of muscle. Pain frequently radiates from these points of local tenderness to broader areas, sometimes distant from the trigger point itself. Trigger points usually occur in muscles that have been overworked, often through overuse or due to abnormal foot posture.
There are many conditions causing musculoskeletal pain of the lower limb, ankle and foot that could potentially be treated with dry needling. A common example is trigger points within the calf and foot muscles referring pain to the heel that are often overlooked in those presenting with plantar fasciitis/heel spur syndrome. Other conditions may be related to the Achilles tendon, calf spasms/tightness or any other muscles below the knee.
The Benefits of Dry Needling
Dry needling at trigger points has been show to result in a reaction from the central nervous system, allowing the muscle to relax and producing analgesia. This analgesia then allows us to appropriately assess and manage muscle conditions with reduced pain and hyper tonicity. Filament needles are incredibly fine and for this reason there is minimal to no pain felt when inserting the needles.
Although there are very few side effects some patients report being mildly sore after the procedure. The soreness is described as muscle soreness over the area treated and occasionally into the areas of referred symptoms. Typically, the soreness lasts between a few hours and two days. Patients are always advised to apply heat at home after the treatment over the area of needling as this significantly reduces post needling muscle soreness. Ice is not advised as this is likely to rapidly cause the redevelopment of trigger points.
How Many Treatments Will It Take for the Treatment to Work?
Typically, it takes several visits (usually between 4-6) for a positive reaction to take place. The aim is to basically reprogram the muscle. This is often done in conjunction with other therapies, such as joint mobilisation/manipulation and orthotics, to address the underlying cause of the trigger points.