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Functional Dry Needling

What is Functional Dry Needling (FDN)?
As defined by the American Physical Therapy Associations (APTA): A skilled intervention performed by a physical therapist that uses a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying muscle, fascia and connective tissues for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments. – APTA 2012

So is FDN like Acupuncture? FDN and acupuncture share a common tool, the solid, round tipped needle. That is the only similarity between the two treatments. The evaluation, assessment, application and intended purpose are all different.

What can I expect from treatment with FDN? When treated with FDN one can expect that in a healthy, typically functioning muscle there will be little to no discomfort. However, in a dysfunction muscle, commonly referred to as a trigger point, a “twitch response” is common. A twitch response feels like a muscle cramp and can reproduce local and radicular symptoms as well as moderate to significant soreness. In most cases the more soreness and discomfort the more dysfunctional the tissue, and the more valuable the treatment can be. Most patients will experience a reduction in symptoms following the first session and prolonged relief with 2-4 sessions, depending on cause and duration of symptoms.

What causes a trigger point? A trigger point is typically the result of an injury. That injury causes a cascade of events beginning with muscle tightness and spasm. Which is followed by compression and irritation of the nerve or nerves innervating that muscle as they exit the spine. This can result in more significant peripheral issues like weakness, range of motion loss or chronic pain.

Why is FDN better or different then other treatment options? FDN allows the practitioner to reach muscles that they can’t reach with their hands. It also allows for more specific treatment within deep and superficial muscles. With this specificity of treatment the provider can zero in on the root cause of symptoms and begin to provide relief for the patient.

How does FDN work? FDN works by inserting a small (.30mm) needle into the muscle and eliciting a local twitch response. The twitch response causes the muscle to contract and release. As the muscle releases there is improvement in muscle length as well as release of local neuropeptides and catecholamines.

Is FDN right for me? FDN is a common treatment for musculoskeletal disorders in Canada, Australia, New Zeeland and Europe. It is slowly gaining awareness in the United States and is currently accepted in 14 states with more states adding it to its physical therapy practice act each year. Before any needle is every inserted into a trigger point a thorough evaluation is done to ensure that the treatment is appropriate and will be beneficial for each individual patient.

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