Understanding Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN)


What is Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN)?

Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) is an effective treatment for chronic pain of neuropathic origin. IMS was developed by Dr. Chan Gunn while he was a clinic physician at the Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia. Dr. Gunn, recently elected an Honorary Fellow of Peterhouse Cambridge University, is currently a clinical professor and teaches IMS at the University of Washington’s Multidisciplinary Pain Center in Seattle and the University of British Columbia’s Medical School. IMS is also taught and utilized at many other pain centers around the world.

TDN is effective and has few side-effects; the technique is also unequaled for finding and diagnosing muscle shortening in deep muscles.

Although TDN uses implements adapted from traditional acupuncture, it is based on scientific, neurophysiological principles. The acupuncture needle used is very thin (much thinner than the hollow needle used to inject medicine or take blood samples). You may not even feel it penetrating the skin, and if your muscle is normal, the needle is painless. However, if your muscle is supersensitive and shortened, you’ll feel a peculiar sensation—like a muscle cramp or Charlie Horse. This is a distinctive type of discomfort caused by the muscle grasping the needle. Patients soon learn to recognize and welcome this sensation. They call it a "good" or positive pain because it soon disappears and is followed by a wonderful feeling of relief and relaxation. The needle may still be in you, but because the muscle is no longer tight, you no longer feel it. What has happened is that the needling has caused your abnormal muscle shortening to intensity and then release. It is important that you experience this sensation in order to gain lasting relief.

"Neuropathy" - or - what happens When nerves start to go wrong...

Doctors usually have no difficulty in treating pain caused by injury (a fracture, for example) or inflammation (such as rheumatoid arthritis). But they are perplexed by pain that shows no sign of tissue damage or inflammation — headaches, "whiplash", backache, tennis elbow or frozen shoulder.

This type of pain, known as neuropathic pain, typically occurs when nerves malfunction following minor irritation. Nerves and nerve-endings become extremely sensitive and cause innocent, harmless signals to be exaggerated and misperceived as painful ones. (This characteristic is known medically as supersensitivity). The result is pain, even when extensive medical tests show there is "nothing wrong". Until recently, supersensitivity has received little attention in medical circles.

The Effects of TDN

The effects of TDN are cumulative—needling stimulates a certain amount of healing, until eventually, the condition is healed and the pain disappears. Some patients treated with TDN have remained pain-free for over 20 years.

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