A needle is a needle… or is it?
The use of acupuncture needles has proliferated among those of us who treat myofascial trigger points (TPs) using dry needling. The rationale is understandable as a sharp, solid needle is required with a small diameter. However, as dry needling has become more sophisticated, perhaps its time to re-visit the use of standard acupuncture needles.
Acupuncture needle interventions typically consist a single insertion of multiple needles along with periodic twirling. On the other hand, modern dry needling requires multiple re-insertions of one needle in a TP zone. The requirements of these interventions are different. For example, if the needle has a small burr at its tip, it unlikely to be a major issue for the acupuncturist. However, for the dry needler it changes the feedback (operator sensation), making it harder to judge the type of soft tissue the needle is penetrating. Perhaps more importantly though, there is a much higher risk of causing damage to healthy soft tissue surrounding the TP, which can lead to negative side-effects such as excessive bleeding and post needling soreness.
The serious dry needler therefore should consider sourcing needles that are manufactured with the following criteria in mind:
- Sharpness- The needle has to be sharp at the tip that will withstand re-insertions into tough tissue such as muscle-tendon junctions and fascia.
- Smoothness- The needle has to have a well-crafted smooth shaft, which is lubricated to facilitate multiple reinsertions.
- Material- There is different qualities of steel available and you get what you pay for.
- The manufacturer must keep a high level of quality control to remove imperfect needles.
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