Dry needling & Osteopathy

More recently a branch of acupuncture called 'Myofacial Acupuncture' or 'Dry Needling' has been developed in the West. This uses acupuncture needles but is aimed more directly at rebalancing disturbances in the body's musculo-skeletal framework and at reducing pain.

Conditions that often respond positively to Dry Needling techniques

These include:

  • Headaches
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Sciatic Pain
  • Hip Pain
  • Knee Pain
  • Repetitive Strain Injuries

Where is 'Dry Needling' helpful and how does it work?

Acupuncture needles can be used in several ways. It is known that many painful symptoms are caused by the development of trigger points within the muscles and connective tissues of the body. These can develop as a result of imbalances in the optimum functioning of the spine and peripheral joints, as a result of overuse or incorrect use of parts of the body, or as a result of direct injury. These trigger points are capable of becoming a source of both local a referred pain. Following the identification of these points, needling techniques are capable of deactivating them and thus reducing the pain associated with them.

Occasionally, as a result of injuries and particularly spinal injuries, severe muscle spasm can develop. Not only can this cause additional pain in itself, but it can also prevent the body from returning to its healthy state. Acupuncture needles used to treat these particular muscles are capable of releasing this spasm, thus allowing the body to return more quickly to normal and also to allow further treatment to be carried out.

Sometimes pain arises as a result of chronic irritation and strain to structures of the body. With 'Tennis Elbow' for example, there is chronic irritation at the attachment of the tendons to the bone. Inflammation and pain develops with the result that the muscles tighten and shorten. This causes further strain and self-perpetuating cycle ensues. In this case needling of the affected tissues can stimulate local healing processes as well as releasing trigger points and shortened muscles.

There are also neurological mechanisms that can be activated to reduce the sensation of pain. This occurs through complex feedback loops throughout the nervous System. Some of these 'Neurological reflexes' actually alter and reduce the experience of pain and others stimulate the body to release endorphins, which are the bodies own naturally occurring analgesics.

Osteopathy and dry needling

When you visit your osteopath, a case history will be taken. This will be followed by a physical examination, at the end of which it is normally possible to make a diagnosis. At this point the osteopath will discuss with you the most appropriate course of treatment for you and your condition. Most Osteopaths who are trained in the use of needles use them as an adjunct to their more usual osteopathic treatment. They will not use them in all cases and when they do it will usually be in combination with manual techniques. Should your osteopath wish to use this form of treatment your consent will be requested at all times and there will be no pressure to consent if you are not sure.

Are Osteopaths trained in the use of acupuncture needles?

Needling techniques do not form part of the basic training and education of Osteopaths in England. Training of this nature is undertaken on a postgraduate level and is only available to previously qualified health care professionals.

Andrew Bellamy who is Osteopath at the Adur Osteopathic Clinic, has completed certified training courses and is qualified to use acupuncture needles as part of his treatment.

Please note that although we use the term acupuncture, this is because it is a commonly understood term, but Andrew does not consider himself as an acupuncturist.

What is Acupuncture?

The following helpful notes come from the British Acupuncture Council [BAcC]

Acupuncture as practised by members of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) is an holistic approach to health based on over 2000 years of developments and refinements in the Far East. Traditionally, acupuncture is an holistic approach to the management of disease as well as the maintenance of health. The skill of an acupuncturist lies in their ability to make a traditional diagnosis from what is often a complex pattern of disharmony. The exact pattern and degree of disharmony is unique to each individual and with traditional acupuncture will be treated as such with a personalised treatment plan.

Acupuncture is a system of healing which has been practised in China and other Eastern countries for thousands of years. Although often described as a means of pain relief, it is in fact used to treat people with a wide range of illnesses. Its focus is on improving the overall well being of the patient, rather than the isolated treatment of specific symptoms. According to traditional Chinese philosophy, our health is dependent on the body's motivating energy - known as Qi - moving in a smooth and balanced way through a series of meridians (channels) beneath the skin.

Qi consists of equal and opposite qualities - Yin and Yang - and when these become unbalanced, illness may result. By inserting fine needles into the channels of energy, an acupuncturist can stimulate the body's own healing response and help restore its natural balance. The flow of Qi can be disturbed by a number of factors. These include emotional states such as anxiety, stress, anger, fear or grief, poor nutrition, weather conditions, hereditary factors, infections, poisons and trauma. The principal aim of acupuncture in treating the whole person is to recover the equilibrium between the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of the individual.

What does it feel like?

Most people's experience of needles is of those used in injections and blood tests. Acupuncture needles bear little resemblance to these. They are much finer and are solid rather than hollow. When the needle is inserted, the sensation is often described as a tingling or dull ache. Needles are inserted either for a second or two, or may be left in place for 30 minutes or more, depending on the effect required. During treatment, patients commonly experience heaviness in the limbs or a pleasant feeling of relaxation. The benefits of acupuncture frequently include more than just relief from a particular condition. Many people find that it can also lead to increased energy levels, better appetite and sleep as well as an enhanced sense of overall well being.

This and many other questions are answered on the BAcC's 'Q & A' page