At Charlotte Acupuncture and Wellness Center, we are dedicated to helping our patients get out of pain as quickly as possible. Dry needling is one of the most effective and efficient techniques used to deactivate trigger points. Dry needling can often deactivate trigger points that are either non-responsive to massage therapy or too deep to be reached by hand. Dry Needling can also be used in patients who receive trigger point injections. Dry Needling is sometimes referred to as Trigger Point Acupuncture.

Dry needling is the deactivation of myofascial trigger points through the placement and manipulation of an acupuncture needle directly into the trigger point. When the trigger point is reached and stimulated properly, a local twitch response is produced. This local twitch response is a reflex that is mediated by the dorsal horn of the spine, and it is often essential to produce these twitches for optimal results.

Trigger points form in areas of muscles in which the fibers are stuck in a contracted mode. The contracted tissue restricts blood flow into the trigger point and results in a relative oxygen depletion in that portion of the tissue. This leads to an acidic environment and the release of chemicals that adversely affect the nervous system. These changes result in localized hypersensitivity to pressure, referred pain and limited range of motion. 

Dry Needling is based on the work of Janet G. Travell, MD. Dr. Travell is credited with advancing the treatment of myofascial trigger points through the use of trigger point injections (wet needling), manual compression and stretching. More recently, it has been discovered that it is the mechanical needling and manipulation of the tissue (rather than the Lidocaine or Procaine traditionally used in wet needling) that produces most of the therapeutic benefit. Acupuncture needles are used in place of hypodermic needles to increase patient comfort, and some acupuncturists may also refer to Dry Needling as Trigger Point Acupuncture. 

Trigger points tend to be a causative or contributing factor to many different types of musculoskeletal pain issues. It has been estimated that trigger points play a role in up to 85% of all chronic pain conditions. Dry Needling can be effective in the treatment of a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Achilles Tendinitis
  • Back pain
  • Buttock pain
  • Calf pain
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Golfer's Elbow
  • Hamstring pain
  • Headache
  • Hip pain
  • Knee pain
  • Migraine
  • Neck pain
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Pelvic pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Sciatica
  • Tennis elbow
  • TMJ
  • Tension headache

Dry Needling is very powerful and can quickly deactivate trigger points. Research suggests that the production of the local twitch response during Dry Needling creates favorable biochemical and mechanical changes. These changes result in a reduction in the concentration of noxious, pain producing chemicals, a normalization of muscle tension and an increase in muscle efficiency. Most patients report experiencing a significant reduction in local pain, referred pain, and muscle spasticity while simultaneously experiencing increased range of motion.

Dry Needling and traditional Acupuncture techniques share many similarities. To the untrained eye, it may be sometimes difficult to discern the differences between Dry Needling and some traditional Acupuncture techniques. In part, this is due to the fact that the same tool is used in both procedures: an acupuncture needle. As well, there is a long history and wide variety of acupuncture techniques and approaches that exist. Many acupuncture techniques, such as Japanese acupuncture, are rather different from Dry Needling. On the other hand, "AhShi" acupuncture is quite similar but with some very important distinctions, including the palpation technique, needling technique and local twitch response.

There are inherent advantages to both Dry Needling and more traditional Acupuncture, and those advantages typically complement one another. It is often beneficial to use a combination of techniques. However, most acupuncturists are not certified in trigger point Dry Needling. Our licensed acupuncturist, Todd George, is uniquely qualified to provide both techniques. Todd is a Certified Myofascial Trigger Point Therapist (CMTPT). He is also the first licensed acupuncturist in North Carolina to have completed the Janet G. Travell, MD Dry Needling Seminar Series through Myopain seminars.