Not all muscle knots can be resolved by stretching. Knots involving the connective tissue surrounding muscles, called myofascia, require more intensive means to relax. “Trigger points” are areas of isolated spasm involving muscle and myofascial tissue. When muscles are chronically tight or injured, they can develop trigger points.

There are several different methods that people can take to relax trigger points and restore muscle function. It is important to diagnose and treat these knots, as they can cause localized pain, referred pain along nearby nerve pathways, and overuse of other muscles as the body tries to compensate for the pain by putting the knotted muscle out of action. One of the methods to treat this condition that has gained popularity in recent years is functional dry needling.

Functional Dry Needling

In this form of therapy, a trained doctor inserts a thin needle into the muscle knot. This is part diagnosis, part treatment. If the knot is truly a trigger point, then the muscle will respond to the needle insertion by spasming. This contraction response also promotes muscle relaxation and knot release.

Functional dry needling is a safe form of therapy when performed by a trained professional. It is often covered by insurance, so it is also affordable for many. It is better to use it together with physical therapy.

Who needs it?

Anyone can develop trigger points. Chronic muscle tension is common in sedentary office workers, professional athletes, and everyone in between. If trigger points are causing back or neck pain in the average person, dry needling can help relieve the pain. Athletes sometimes use the therapy to help their muscles recover from intense training sessions. They report reduced pain and increased function. Read more about what professionals and athletes have to say about dry needling at

It is not the end of the treatment

While getting rid of those tight areas of spasm is critical to restoring proper muscle function and reducing pain, it’s not the end of treatment. Something caused those trigger points to form in the first place, and if you don’t take steps to identify and eliminate the source, they are likely to reappear.

For most people, a combination of poor posture and body mechanics is likely the source of trigger points. Studying workplace ergonomics and setting reminders to check your posture can help. Additionally, participating in both strength training (particularly the core group) and cardiovascular will help keep your muscles strong and nourished.

Athletes should not use dry needling as a way to get out of proper form and rest. Overtraining can lead to a number of health problems, including sex hormone deficiency, a compromised immune system, and chronic musculoskeletal injuries. Athletes must also be constantly aware of their form to ensure they are using the appropriate muscles and other tissues at the correct times.

Other options

Those who are afraid of the needle or would simply like to try something less invasive to begin with may opt for myofascial release, a form of massage that applies direct, deep, and sustained pressure to trigger points. A professional can identify these points by evaluating a twitch response. Self-myofascial release can also be accomplished at home with the use of a tennis ball, foam roller, or other round, dense object.

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