Myofascial trigger points are among the most common forms of low back pain. When activated, these tender and stiff “knots” of bundled spinal muscles can reduce your range of motion and cause referred pain—that is, pain that spreads—such as from your low back into one or more areas of the hip, groin, abdominal, gluteus muscles, tailbone, and/or thigh.
Lower back pain is an extremely common complaint. Around 80% of adults will experience lower back pain at some point in their life. Although sometimes there is an obvious cause, the source of the pain is often unknown; fortunately, many cases resolve themselves within a few weeks. However, 20% of people with lower back pain will develop a chronic condition, where the pain persists for more than 12 weeks.
What is dry needling?
During a dry needling session, a clinician injects thin filiform needles (the same type of needle commonly used in acupuncture) into a trigger point. The goal is to “deactivate” the trigger point. We all have trigger points, but they only cause symptoms when they’re active. When the trigger point is deactivated, you’ll experience an increase in range of motion and function, and a decrease in pain.
Research: Dry Needling Works Best With Other Low Back Pain Treatments
In 2018, researchers reviewed the available evidence on dry needling to understand how effective the therapy is at treating trigger points that cause low back pain. They found that scientific evidence linking dry needling to reduced low back pain was lacking. However, they were able to draw some conclusions from the small sample of studies they reviewed.
“The low-to-moderate-quality evidence showed that compared with other treatments, dry needling resulted in significant reduction in pain intensity and functional disability at post-intervention,” wrote the researchers. “However, dry needling plus other treatments for [low back pain] was more effective than dry needling alone in pain intensity reduction at post-intervention, but the quality of evidence was low.”
What should I know before my dry needling session?
You do not need to do any special preparation before a dry needling session. Many people experience immediate relief from symptoms after their session (though the length of relief may vary—from hours up to weeks). You should ask your physical therapist or clinician who performs your dry needling, if you should follow treatment with an ice pack (“icing”) versus heat, such as a heating pad.
You may be sore in your trigger point areas after treatment, which is normal.
For optimal results, you should participate in a treatment plan that combines dry needling with physiotherapy and custom orthotics.
TREATMENT PLAN BY DON KELLY
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