Medical Acupuncture or ‘dry needling’, as it is also known, unlike Traditional Chinese Acupuncture does not utilise all of the traditional ideas with the meridians and acu-points. Instead it works on the understanding of anatomy, physiology and pathology.
A common problem treated is myofascial pain with trigger points, tight painful regions in a muscle which surprisingly may cause symptoms in the arms and fingers. Dry needling is an invasive procedure in which a filiform needle is inserted into the skin and muscle directly at the myofascial trigger point which consists of multiple contraction knots. These are related to the production and maintenance of the pain cycle.
It elicits a local twitch response (LTR), an involuntary spinal cord reflex, in which the muscle fibers in the taut band of muscle contract. The LTR indicates the proper placement of the needle in a trigger point. Dry needling that elicits LTRs improves treatment outcomes and may work by activating natural pain-relieving ‘endogenous opioids’. The activation of the endogenous opioids is for an analgesic effect using the Gate Control Theory of Pain.
Inserting the needle can itself cause pain initially but this tends to dissipate quickly.