Yes different to acupuncture!
Acupuncture is Traditional Chinese Medicine which works off body meridians which are base off your systemic organs, hence, stomach meridian, gall bladder meridian, lung, kidney etc etc, on these meridians are a series of points, all numbered. By stimulating certain points in succession , along with others factors, conditions and treatment will help the body recover, heal, fight infection, relax, whatever outcome is desired by the practitioner by stimulating and working with the meridian with Acupuncture needles. Has been around for hundreds of years and is extremely effective.
So how is dry needling different? Dry needling interphases with the nervous system, not traditional Chinese Meridians. Dry Needling uses acupuncture needles(same toolbox) but we use them in an entirely different way. We deactivate trigger points and muscular contraction, by stimulating the nervous system.
In order to make a muscle contract it takes an impulse from the Central Nervous System(CNS). The CNS is an output centre, it sprays electrical messages down through the spinal cord out the nerve roots and branches and instructs the body to do amazing things. It autonomically sends messages to your heart to keep it beating and to your diaphragm to keep it flattening so your lungs draw air, your heart pumps oxygen rich blood around the body and the brain and you keep living. The CNS voluntarily sends messages to skeletal muscles, when you instruct movement and support, this is done by muscular contraction and elongation and relaxation, this creates movement. When the CNS sends an electrical message down through the spinal cord, through the nerve to the muscle(s) instructing it to contract, sometimes that message continues, and continues repeatedly, hence the muscle is contracted constantly or at least a portion of it is, these are called in lay terms ‘Knots’, or trigger points, hypertonic muscle lesions. They are hyper irritable contractions which lead to muscular pain, restriction, reduced range of movement, muscle tears, injury, all things not desirable and usually painful or uncomfortable.
In order to release these muscular contractions, the central nervous system needs to reboot and cease sending the same message down constantly. No amount of massage, stretching, treatment will deactivate that trigger point like dry needling will.
Once the trigger point, knot is located and surrounding anatomy noted and indicated, insertion of a very fine hair like needled at correct depth will intercept the constant electrical impulse from the CNS and conductively recircuit it in the direction of which it came from, basically return it to the source or part of the CNS where it originated and spike, reboot or reprogram it into reset. The CNS will recognise the muscle, the trigger point and the fine needle interrupting the constant neurological flow and return it to normal function. It’s like putting a mirror in front of a light beam and bouncing it back to the light source, but in the form of a tiny nerve impulse, being redirected back through the nervous system to the brain and alerting it that it has been repeating itself constantly.
A Myotherapist with years of experience will be able to locate a muscle contraction precisely and ‘needle it’ correctly, generating what’s called a ‘Local twitch response’, “a twitch”, then you know straight away that the precise spot has been needled correctly, you can see and feel the muscle twitch, then the entire muscle switches off and melts into deep relaxation or ‘turns off’. Once the desired result has been attained from needling, deep tissue manipulation and some passive muscle stretching will elongate the muscle and restore correct muscular integrity.
Dry needling doesn’t hurt, you can feel it but it shouldn’t actually hurt. It is a very powerful tool and if used correctly can really impact and make a huge difference where other treatment can’t, it reboots the CNS and corrects the sequential firing pattern for correct movement.