More than 30 million Americans take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) every day, and I am convinced that this is because we're raising a generation of pill-poppers from early on. What has happened in our society is that we have allowed a system to be set up that openly supports taking a drug for every ache, bump or bruise we get. When people get older and strain a muscle, develop a trigger point or throw their back out or something, their first instinct is to pop a pill, which doesn't do anything but mask the pain. Unfortunately, our culture has not reached the point where it openly seeks out “alternative” pain-relieving methods like proper nutrition habits, chiropractic or trigger point dry needling.
Danger of NSAIDs
If you struggle with musculoskeletal aches and pains and take NSAIDs, you may want to reconsider choosing a more natural option. Just last year, at the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism, Dr. Carl Orr from the Department of Medicine, Royal College of Surgeons shared that NSAIDs can very well cause heart failure and other chronic diseases. Here's what Dr. Orr said,
The side effect profile and safety of NSAIDs has been commonly reported, but little is known about treatment duration and its implications for cardiovascular risk. This data demonstrates an immediate increase in the risk of death and MI [heart attack], challenging the safety of even short-term use. The introduction of physician guidelines to assist safe prescribing of this class of drug is vital, and the only way to keep patient safety at the forefront of disease management.
Just imagine the heart attack risk someone develops if they start taking NSAIDs early on in life, which many Americans do.
For those of you suffering from muscle pain, chances are that you have myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) and addressing these “knots” in your muscles should be top on your list to cure your condition, not taking a NSAID. In fact, the danger in only taking a painkiller and leaving the trigger point alone is that your condition will ultimately get worse. This is one reason people develop fibromyalgia, which is nothing more than trigger points throughout your body.
There are several ways to naturally treat trigger points directly; some of the more common being acupuncture, deep tissue massage and chiropractic care. One technique I have found intriguing is trigger point dry needling (TrP-DN), which is something most people have never heard of.
Also referred to as intramuscular stimulation, TrP-DN is an semi-invasive procedure using an acupuncture needle to deactivate and desensitize trigger points. In contrast to the ancient practice of acupuncture, which concentrates on correcting imbalances in the flow of Qui through channels known as meridians, TrP-DN is relatively new and focuses on treating the muscle itself.
The term “dry needling” is believed to have been coined by Janet G. Travell, MD (1901-1997) in the early 1940s. Travell was a pioneer in treating myofascial pain using trigger point therapy and she discovered that the use of hypodermic needles was effective due to their strength and tactile feedback. In Travell's opinion, acupuncture needles are too thin and flexible to properly treat a trigger point.
Initially, she injected a local anesthetic into the trigger point, which is a reason she used a syringe for trigger point therapy. Later, though, she found that her patients responded well to the insertion of the needle alone to break up trigger points without injecting any solution. Thus, “dry needling” took root as a drug-free option in treating myofascial pain.
How Dry Needling Works & Benefits
In 1979, Karel Lewit performed a study confirming that dry needling does indeed have a strong analgesic effect when the needle is inserted into the body. As researched progressed, TrP-DN practitioners began adopting acupuncture needles in lieu of hypodermic needles as they are less invasive. Because acupuncture needles are very fine and solid, they don't hurt as they pass through the skin like a hollow injection needle does.
The sensations people receiving trigger point dry therapy are “deep aching,” “pressure,” “releasing,” “blood flow,” or “soreness.” The needle is left in for a very short period of time, just long enough to relax the muscle. The procedure is repeated in different areas until the muscle returns to its normal, relaxed state.
When a needle tip hits a trigger point, a characteristic, involuntary ‘local twitch' in the muscle is observed. It has been suggested that the elicitation of local twitch responses is the most important aspect in obtaining a successful therapeutic outcome for trigger point deactivation. Still unproven, it is suspected that by stimulating the mechanoreceptors in trigger points, TrP-DN can disrupt the neurological feedback loop eliciting pain to the central nervous system; thus, decreasing pain.
Still not quite well known, many people have received great results from TrP-DN. People, for example, who receive significant yet short-lived relief in massage therapy have found TrP-DN to provide longer lasting relief. Various reports also suggest that trigger point dry therapy works best for people with overuse injuries, chronic pain and sports injuries. Some benefits include:
- Lasting pain relief from head to toe
- Eliminating tension, wherever people hold it
- Healing overuse injuries
- Getting rid of knots in muscles
- Helping muscles heal after injury
- Releasing tight muscles
- Speeding healing time
- Improving blood flow at a deep level
- Stimulating muscles to work better
- Preventing injuries
- Getting people back exercising sooner
- Healing chronic injuries of muscles, tendons and joints
Have you ever tried trigger point dry needling or acupuncture?
- Lewit, K. The needle effect in the relief of myofascial pain. Pain 1979; 6(1):89-90.