The practice of ‘dry needling’ involves inserting an acupuncture needle into a myofascial trigger point and is typically used to treat the pain associated with injuries.
Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder. In myofascial pain syndrome, pressure on sensitive points in a tight band of muscles (trigger points) causes pain at the region or in seemingly unrelated parts of your body. This is called referred pain. Myofascial pain syndrome typically occurs after a muscle has been contracted repetitively. This can be caused by repetitive motions used in jobs or sports or any movement that causes stress-related muscle tension.
Signs and symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome may include:
- Deep, aching pain in a muscle
- Pain that persists or worsens
- A tender knot in a muscle
- Difficulty sleeping due to pain
Sensitive areas of tight muscle fibers can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse. These sensitive areas are called trigger points. A trigger point in a muscle can cause strain and pain throughout the muscle.
Myofascial pain syndrome is caused by a stimulus, such as pressure, that sets off trigger points in the muscles. Factors that may increase the risk of muscle trigger points include:
- Muscle injury. An acute muscle injury or continual muscle stress may lead to the development of trigger points. For example, a spot within or near a strained muscle may become a trigger point. Repetitive motions and poor posture also may increase your risk.
- Stress and anxiety. People who frequently experience stress and anxiety may be more likely to develop trigger points in their muscles. One theory holds that these people may be more likely to clench their muscles, a form of repeated strain that leaves muscles susceptible to trigger points.
In most people, just the act of inserting the needle (acupuncture needle) into the trigger point helps break up the muscle tension and possible scar tissues.