Trigger Point Therapy
An important aspect of musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction is addressing all possible contributing factors, including the presence of joint or spinal dysfunction, postural imbalances, reduced coordination of movement, poor posture and the effect of trigger points.
Describing a trigger point
An active trigger point is a hyperirritable spot in skeletal muscle that is associated with a tender and palpable nodule in a taut band of muscle. These muscles often appear tight, weak, do not respond to just stretching and cause restricted joint ranges of motion. Once a trigger point is established it can become self perpetuating and persist for decades until it is adequately released.
If the trigger point is not released it can lead to altered joint motion and be the cause of recurring pain.
Management of trigger points
There are some different approaches to the treatment of trigger points including ischaemic compression, specific soft tissue mobilisations (SSTM), frictions and massage. Due to the hypersensitivity of the trigger point, pain levels will be initially quite high during manual therapy, but as the treatment progresses it eases off.
Other approaches to trigger point treatment can involve stretching and electrotherapeutic devices. Physiotherapists may use 'ultrasound' to improve the rate of healing of the trigger point, varying the strength of the dose according to the stage of the trigger point. Or they may use other electrical machines to achieve the same effects; however, all of these are only adjuncts to the main treatment of releasing the trigger point.
What actually is Dry needling
Superficial dry needling is an advanced skill and offers another effective way of eliminating trigger points in tight muscles. It involves inserting a thin filament needle into the skin and muscle directly at a palpable myofascial trigger point. The exact mechanisms are not known although understood to involve both mechanical and biomechanics effects to help break the pain cycle.
It is thought that dry needling stimulates certain sensors in the body which modulate pain signals. Dry needling can also cause local biochemical changes and result in an increase of blood flow in the trigger point area.
The benefits of trigger point release through dry needling include a decrease in the tightness and the pain associated with a particular muscle, allowing re-education of the muscles into pain-free habits. Often times an immediate improvement is noted and after several treatments there is an increased range of motion, reduced tension and improved flexibility, circulation and co-ordination.
Is it similar to acupuncture?
There are many similarities and differences between dry needling and acupuncture. Physiotherapists at Hindmarsh and Fitzroy Physiotherapy are not acupuncturists and do not practice acupuncture. In contrast to most schools of acupuncture, dry needling is strictly based on Western Medicine Principles and Research and is used in the management of musculoskeletal and sports injuries.
For more details please call one of our clinics and we can arrange for one of our physiotherapists to get back to you to discuss dry needling.