Dry needling techniques involves using needles to stimulate the body's own pain relief system, without using drugs. It has its origin in Acupuncture, were needles have been used to move the flow of energy (or chi) in the body for more than 2000 years. In the west it was not until 1938 that Professor John Kellgren of Manchester university first adapted modern neurophysiology concepts to the ancient technique, observing that by applying sustained pressure on muscles he could identify exquisite tender points and reproduce the patients pain, and ease them by injecting an analgesic (using “wet needles”). As other drugs were trialled over the years it became clear that pain relief was in fact dependent on the stimulation of the needle itself, and not on the substance administered.
One of the first Physician to employ Dry Needling for pain relief was Dr Karel Lewit of Czechoslovakia in 1979. He reported favourable results on the use of Dry Needles i.e. stimulating trigger points with acupuncture needles in patients with musculoskeletal pain. The use of acupuncture needles is a refinement of the earlier methods which used hypodermic needles. This significantly reduces the risk of haematoma and bruising associated with hollow needles.
Janet Travell (1901 –1997) an American Physician contributed greatly to todays understanding of the type of muscle pain Kellgren and others had investigated. As it is the neural hyperactivity associated with the tender points in both muscle and fascia that triggers off referred pain. Janet Travell called the exquisite tender points “Trigger points”. She also introduced the term Myofascial trigger point (MTrP) (Travell and Simon’s 1999).
Today, Medical Doctors and other health professionals are using Dry Needling effectively and extensively throughout the world for the relief of pain and dysfunction.