Trigger-point dry needling is an invasive procedure where a fine needle or acupuncture needle is inserted into the skin and muscle. It is aimed at myofascial trigger points (MTrP) which are hyperirritable spots in skeletal muscle that are associated with a hypersensitive palpable nodule in a taut band. Trigger point dry needling can be carried out at superficial or deep tissue level.
Superficial Dry Needling
This was developed by Peter Baldry. He recommended the insertion of needles to 5-10mm over a MTrP for 30 secs. Palpation of the MTrP then determined the level of response and whether needle stimulation was sufficient to alleviate MTrP pain. If not the need was re-inserted.
Trigger Point Model
The trigger point model is a dry needling technique that specifically targets myofascial trigger points. They are thought to be due to an excessive release of acetylcholine from selected motor endplates. They can be divided into Active and Latent myofascial trigger points.
- Active trigger points can spontaneously trigger local or referred pain. They cause muscle weakness, restricted ROM and autonomic phenomena.
- Latent trigger points do not cause pain unless they are stimulated. They may alter muscle activation patterns and contribute to restricted ROM.
- Therefore both active and latent trigger points cause allodynia at the trigger point site and hyperalgesia away from the trigger point following applied pressure.
- The formation of trigger points is caused by the creation of a taut band within the muscle. This band is caused by excessive acetylcholine release from the motor endplate combined with inhibition of acetylcholine esterase and upregulation of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.
- Pain caused by trigger points is due to hypoxia and decreased bloodflow within the trigger point. This leads to a decreased pH which activates the muscle nociceptors to restore homeostasis. This causes peripheral sensitization.
- Trigger points are also involved in central sensitization. The mechanism remains unclear but trigger points maintain nocioceptive input into the dorsal horn and therefore contribute to central sensitization.