Dry needling is the use of a monofilament needle (often referred to as an acupuncture needle) to release tight bands known as trigger points in muscles. This technique may be used by physiotherapists to treat clients suffering from myofascial pain and dysfunction.
Is all dry needling the Same?
Physiotherapists do not learn to perform dry needling in University. They must take additional training after they graduate. There are many different streams of education they can take with many different approaches and treatment philosophies, There is also a large disparity of teaching hours and expertise required to complete different training programs.
Is Gunn IMS the same as Trigger Point Dry Needling?
Gunn Intramuscular Stimulation is a very specialized form of dry needling taught through the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine. It is based on the theories and techniques developed by Dr. Chan Gunn out of Vancouver Canada. The primary focus of Gunn IMS is to address tissue changes occurring in the body that can be responsible for chronic pain as well as many other orthopaedic conditions. All physiotherapists at Elevate Physiotherapy are thoroughly trained in his specific form of dry needling.
differences between trigger point dry needling and Gunn IMS
Gunn IMS uses a dry needle and is a form of dry needling. However, everyone that is performing dry needling is not performing Gunn IMS. The differentiation between dry needling and Gunn IMS is based on the assessment and treatment plan developed by the therapist. A certified Gunn IMS practitioner will use a thorough neuropathic assessment and treatment plan aimed at addressing an underlying neurological contribution to many conditions. In contrast, trigger point dry needling is the act of sticking a needle into a painful trigger point and will often not address the cause of the formation of the trigger point in the first place.
The skill level of physiotherapists offering dry needling varies greatly. Some take very intense university based courses, others are taught in a single weekend. Because Gunn IMS is taught through the University of British Columbia it is externally audited to ensure the highest standards of safety. Gunn IMS has a longstanding history and is currently evolving through the decades of experience educating of over 2000 physiotherapists and medical doctors worldwide.
The Gunn IMS assessment is based on looking for signs and symptoms of nervous system dysfunction. Based on these findings a treatment plan is developed grounded on current medical knowledge of anatomy, physiology and biochemistry. A needle is inserted into a tight band (or trigger point) in the muscle and immediately removed. This stimulus mechanically, chemically, and electrically alters the function of the muscle and the nervous system.
Acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine theories and philosophies. Needles are most commonly inserted into points along meridians (channels) to alter the flow of energy referred to as Qi (chee). These needles will be then left in place for a period of time and may also be stimulated by electricity.
Which Conditions Does dry needling Work for?
Dry needling is an effective treatment to address musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction in the body for a vast array of conditions.
SI Joint Pain
Headaches and migraines
And Much More
Why does Dry Needling Work?
Dry needling works by inserting a small needle into a tight band or trigger point within a muscle. The needle works to mechanically stimulate the muscle, electrically alter the nervous system activity around the muscle, and chemically change the environment the muscle resides. The combination of these 3 outcomes can significantly alter pain and improve function in the body. To learn more about these changes please read our Gunn IMS FAQs
Is Dry Needling Safe?
Dry needling is a controlled act under the Regulated Health Professions Act. Physiotherapists must prove they have sufficient training to be rostered with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario. Physiotherapists certified in Gunn IMS receive highly specialized training so adverse events are incredibly rare.
Is Dry Needling Expensive?
Compared to other treatment techniques and interventions, dry needling can be a cost effective solution to treating chronic myofascial pain and dysfunction.
Expected number of sessions
It does not take long to find out if dry needling will work for you. If dry needling is going to effectively address your concerns, you should notice a significant improvement in your condition in 1-4 treatment sessions. This does not necessarily mean your problem can be completely resolved in 4 sessions, but you should be while on your way to experiencing a positive result.
Cost of Treatment and Insurance Coverage
At Elevate Physiotherapy all dry needling is performed by physiotherapists. There is no additional charge for dry needling treatments. Physiotherapy Assessments are $95 and follow-up appointments are $80. Receipts are issued for physiotherapy, so if you have extended health benefits that cover physiotherapy they will also cover your dry needling treatments.
What does dry needling feel like?
Dry needling involves the insertion and immediate removal of a very thin monofilament needle into a tight band, or 'trigger point', within a muscle. The needle does not have a sharp cutting edge like ones that are used to take blood. Because of this, the insertion past the skin is usually quite painless. The needle is then advanced into the muscle. At this point clients will often feel a very brief sensation of pressure or 'cramping' within the muscle. The level of discomfort can be easily adjusted by the treating therapist to suit your personal preference.
Does Dry Needling Need to be Painful?
Dry Needling is a very broad term. It encompasses a large spectrum of treatment techniques, philosophies, and educational streams. Some educational streams advocate very aggressive and painful treatments. Others can be almost completely painless. At Elevate Physiotherapy we specialize in Gunn Intramuscular Stimulation (Gunn IMS) so this will be the technique we are referring to below.
Is Gunn IMS painful? Gunn IMS focuses on addressing a nervous system that is supersensitized. Creating high levels of pain and discomfort is not the goal of treatment. Because of the profound physiological effects that occur with the insertion of a needle, treatment with dry needles is no different than a dosage of prescription medication. Our therapists will perform a thorough assessment and will be very careful that the appropriate 'dosage' of treatment is provided. Although clients will often describe the experience as a somewhat unpleasant sensation, the level of discomfort felt during treatment can be easily adapted based on tolerance and comfort levels. Pain is not required for an effective treatment! If you have experienced painful dry needling in the past, especially if the pain persisted for days, your therapist may have been overly aggressive for your own personal needs (they have essentially applied a treatment overdose).
When Dry Needling Cannot Be Performed
Dry needling is a safe and effective treatment option for a wide variety of people and conditions. However, there are certain populations that require special consideration. If you have are currently taking blood thinning medication or immunosuppressant drugs, please contact the clinic to discuss if treatment is appropriate prior to booking an initial assessment.
Is dry needling safe during pregnancy? There are likely certain trigger points when stimulated that can lead to uterine contraction during pregnancy. Dry needling has not been sufficiently studied in pregnant women to ensure there are no negative side effects throughout pregnancy. Due to these reasons we will not treat you with dry needling while you are pregnant.