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All About Trigger Point Dry Needling

Nov 28, 2022 | 0 comments

You may have heard about dry needling. It is a popular treatment right now for muscle aches and pains and restricted movement.

But what is it, exactly? And how is it different then acupuncture, and what do trigger points have to do with it?

First let’s look at what dry needling is:

  • It is the use of sterile, single-use stainless steel needles inserted into areas of tension in a muscle called trigger points.
  • In Idaho state licensure, dry needling is defined as “needle insertion and withdrawal, without retention.” What this means is that the needle is put in, and then taken out, not left in, and e-stim is not applied.
  • In Idaho, physical therapists who have received 27 hours of training can legally dry needle. Acupuncturists receive 3,227 hours of training.
  • Some the best places on your body for Dry Needling, such as the upper traps and mid-back, are just above your LUNGS. When needling in these areas, it would be very easy for someone with Insufficient training to cause a pneumothorax (punctured lung).  All acupuncturists go through hundreds of hours of supervised clinical training to ensure that they know how to safely needle any area of the body.
  • Our acupuncturist has taken continuing education (beyond that 3,227 hours) that focuses specifically on dry needling technique and related techniques.

How is it different then acupuncture?

  • In the simplest terms, dry needling is a technique where an acupuncture needle is inserted multiple times into tight muscle, then taken out. It is a technique to reduce tension in a tight band of muscle or fascia. 
  • Acupuncture will usually leave the needles in for a while (sometimes with Electro-Acupuncture) for greater therapeutic effect.

And what about trigger points?

 A trigger point has these three hallmark signs:

  • It is an easily felt area of tightness within a larger muscle
  • It restricts movement
  • It may refer pain to another area of the body in a predictable pattern.

Healthy muscle fibers lay in linear patterns and contract and release easily. When a muscle has a trigger point in it, the fibers get a bit snarled, or stuck to each other, and the muscle cannot function as well. Because it has a tight band or knot in it, you experience restricted movement and sometimes pain.

What does it feel like to have a trigger point needled?

  • Patients report that it is a sudden, sore, and expanding feeling that dissipates quickly. Some have described it as a popping feeling.
  • The muscle will often twitch or ripple as the fibers realign themselves in response to the needle.
  • It is common to be a little sore for the first 12 hours or so, and then have a much freer range of movement.


Interesting notes:

Muscles are attached to each other in long lines made of fascia, which is a connective tissue found throughout the body. A trigger point in one muscle can affect the muscles up or down stream in that line. A classic example is plantar fasciitis, in which trigger points in the gastrocnemius (calf) muscle pull in the plantar fascia, and it hurts to take those first few steps in the morning.

Often a Trigger Point is the result of a Muscle Motor Inhibition in its agonist. For example, if your bicep is inhibited you may develop trigger points in your triceps.  In this case, at Spring Acupuncture the Inhibited bicep would be treated with a small amount of Electro-Acupuncture to the Motor Point of bicep, then we would treat the Trigger Points in the triceps. Otherwise, the Trigger Points in the triceps would keep returning due to the fact the root cause of the Trigger Points had not been addressed, which was the Motor Inhibition of the biceps muscle.

Relationships like this are found all over the body.

At Spring Acupuncture, we’re here to serve you, our patients, and provide a more comprehensive experience than dry needling trigger points alone.

Have questions or want to learn more?

Call us at 208-616-1040

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