Both Traditional Chinese Acupuncture (TCM) and dry needling are available.
Dry needling is a technique physical therapists use to treat myofascial pain. The technique uses a “dry” needle, one without medication or injection, inserted through the skin into areas of the muscle, known as trigger points. These trigger points can often be found as hard lumps of muscle fibres (or knots) and can cause considerable amounts of pain and discomfort.
Unlike TCM acupuncture, where needles are inserted into acupoints deduced to relate to different conditions (which is why you may hear of needles being inserted into the knee to treat digestive issues), dry needling focuses on the muscles which are causing the pain - so if you have a shoulder injury, it will be the shoulder muscles that are treated directly. The needles work by stimulating the pain receptors in the muscle and causing the muscle to eventually relax.
Needling in a painful ‘trigger point’ or muscular knot frequently provokes a “twitch” response from the muscle. This is both diagnostic as well as therapeutic, because healthy muscle tissue will not “twitch” when stimulated by the needle. Once a “twitch” response has been elicited, the muscle fibers in that area relax, ‘inflammation’ is reduced and circulation improves. As a result of these physiologic processes, dry needling can purposely address muscle, tendon and myofascial pain and dysfunction. Of course, muscles do not always twitch when needled, but regardless of the response, the tissue feels softer and more relaxed when the needle is removed.
Insertion of the needle itself into the muscle rarely hurts, and most clients claim they cannot even feel it. Some discomfort may be felt if the muscle 'grabs' the needle and twitches (tenses around the pin causing a spasm sensation). However, this is a good thing and means that your body is responding very positively to treatment. Usually, this is a completely bearable sensation, with most clients describing it as a 'strange' feeling, rather than a pain.
TCM includes stimulation of acu-points (similar to the way in which reflexology works). These may or may not be in a muscle. The acu-points are located along meridians, which are electrical channels in the body. Stimulating acu-points can help to treat the source of a medical problem, (whether that be physical or emotional), not just the symptoms.
Side effects may include bruising and soreness in some of the points afterwards, but the overall effect is that of loosened muscles and better fluid motion.