We often get a lot of questions from curious moms-to-be regarding the safety of dry needling during pregnancy. Functional dry needling, like the name suggests, is a unique procedure where a physical therapist cautiously inserts very fine needles into your muscles targeting specific areas with the aim to relieve muscle and joint pain. We are proud to offer dry needling as one of our finest treatment procedures at Triggered Physical Therapy.
Many patients come to love this treatment as it provides relief without the risks and side effects commonly associated with prescription medication and surgery for pain. However, due to the unconventional module of treatment, many patients can be intimidated by it especially during vulnerable periods such as pregnancy. Naturally, this eccentric form of pain relief is frequently met with a lot of skepticism and mistrust. It’s time we dispel the misconceptions behind dry needling during pregnancy!
What is dry needling?
Functional dry needling, colloquially known as dry needling or intramuscular stimulation (IMS) is a minimally invasive needling technique that involves inserting a fine micro-filament needle into the skin and muscle. It is aimed at myofascial trigger points (MTrP) which are hyperirritable spots that when “released” enable pain relief.
How does dry needling work?
Your muscles may sometimes develop knotted areas known as trigger points. These trigger points are highly sensitive and can be painful upon palpation (upon touched). Clinicians use fine needles to reach these trigger points. These needles help stimulate the tissue without the need for medication. It is postulated that dry needling changes the way your brain and muscles interact with each other, sufficiently returning the system to its normal movement pattern.
Upon undergoing dry needling, you may experience some treatment sensations like muscle soreness, aching, and a muscle twitch. These are viewed as a good sign of successful treatment. Once the twitch in muscle is found and “released” the muscle relaxes with reduced pain, inflammation, improved circulation, and muscle function. The needles may be placed deeply or superficially depending on what is being treated.
Is dry needling safe during pregnancy?
There has been a long-standing debate on the efficiency and safety of dry needling during pregnancy.
While some practitioners believe that dry needling is safe during all phases of pregnancy, others continue to assert that the use of this seemingly complex technique should be restricted during certain gestational weeks, or altogether. The Dry Needling Institute of the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy (AAMT) dictates caution of dry needling procedure during the first trimester of pregnancy, as general complications during this phase are more common.
All in all, dry needling is a very safe treatment for all musculoskeletal conditions including those that affect pregnant women. It is a useful and safe treatment tool for pregnancy-related low-back pain (LBP) and pelvic girdle pain (PGP) as well as an efficient technique to decrease pain stiffness improve range of motion, and overall sense of wellbeing.
Is functional dry needling the same as acupuncture?
While both acupuncture and dry needling involve inserting prickly sharp needles into your skin, the similarities end there. During acupuncture, needles are inserted into the meridian lines in the body. These lines represent the body’s localization of energy. When the energy cannot pass through these concentrations, the body is said to suffer. Acupuncture is thus based on the idea of restoring the proper flow of energy throughout the body.
On the other hand, dry needling treatment is a relatively new technique based on modern Western medicine. It involves inserting needles into restrictions in the muscles caused by altered muscle function. These are called trigger points and can cause localized as well as referred pain to other parts of the body. Upon insertion of needles, they elicit a response that releases the trigger points and restores normal function.
If you’re tired of constantly waking up to backaches and joint pains, dry needling can be your saving grace. At Triggered Physical Therapy, we make sure that our patients receive premier care to restore them to health and an elevated quality of life.
- McDowell JM, Kohut SH, Betts D. Safe acupuncture and dry needling during pregnancy: New Zealand physiotherapists' opinion and practice. J Integr Med. 2019 Jan;17(1):30-37. doi: 10.1016/j.joim.2018.11.006. Epub 2018 Nov 28. PMID: 30528519. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30528519/
- American Academy of Manipulative Therapy -