May 20 2016

Dry Needling Q&A Featured

Holly Hardy, PT, DPT, MTC manages Conway Regional Therapy Center- Greenbrier. She is one of only a handful of Physical Therapists in Arkansas who are trained in dry needling.

WHAT IS DRY NEEDLING?
Dry Needling is a skilled intervention that uses a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscular and connective tissues for the management of neuromusculo-skeletal pain and movement impairments.
When we contract our muscles repetitively, such as motion in sports activities, jobs or stress-related muscle tension, sensitive trigger points can develop within the muscle itself along the fascia that cover and protect them. These hypersensitive myofascial trigger points can be chronic or active and can feel like pain, weakness, burning, aching or tingling. Not only do they cause pain directly on the originating point in the muscle, but they can make other areas of the muscle and body feel painful, too.

WHY IS DRY NEEDLING AN EFFECTIVE TREATMENT?
Dry needling can be more effective than regular massage for soft tissue therapy because it gets inside the muscle and releases the point of tension. We are reproducing a twitch response – if the needle is poking into the part of the muscle that’s aggravated and active, the muscle jumps on to the needle and releases all the chemicals that have been keeping it in that short and tight position.

WHAT CONDITIONS OR INJURIES CAN BENEFIT FROM DRY NEEDLING?
Many musculoskeletal issues can actually be aided by dry needling. Most commonly, it is used for chronic neck or back pain at any age. Many endurance athletes, in particular runners, seem drawn to and benefit from dry needling.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHRONIC AND ACTIVE TRIGGER POINTS?
Chronic trigger points are pain that often develops over a number of years, or may be latent for a while and sometimes grow worse. Active trigger points can produce radiating and intense pain caused by overuse or misuse of a muscle such as improper form. If you have a weakness somewhere in your musculature you’re more likely to overuse to the muscles.

HOW IS DRY NEEDLING DIFFERENT FROM ACUPUNCTURE?
We use the same size needles as those used in acupuncture, but with dry needling we go after the exact point of tightness within that band of muscle tissue. Acupuncture usually focuses more on the connection between meridian points and energy in the body.

DOES DRY NEEDLING HURT?
We do insert the needle into the muscle, but most of my patients tell me that it doesn’t really “hurt”. It is a technique that’s more invasive than what people are used to in regular physical therapy, but the feeling and response will differ from patient to patient.

HOW MANY SESSIONS OF DRY NEEDLING WILL I NEED TO FIND RELIEF?
It varies, but typically in about three sessions you’ll notice a significant difference.

HOW WILL I FEEL AFTER THE TREATMENT AND WILL I NEED RECOVERY TIME?
During dry needling, when you loosen that muscle with the needle, the body releases its own chemicals. Patients sometimes feel sore after dry needling because those chemicals, which are not dangerous, stay in the body for a while until the lymphatic system figures out that it needs to clean them up.

I tell patients to drink a lot of water to flush it out. They should also stretch and do light activity which will help with restoring blood flow and alleviating soreness. I usually work with patients on some exercises as part of their rehabilitation in addition to dry needling.

IS IT OKAY TO HAVE DRY NEEDLING AFTER I HAVE HAD SURGERY?
We usually wait at least 6 weeks post-op before dry needling around the area of surgery and 12 weeks at the actual surgical site. If a patient is still having limitations, I usually talk to the surgeon before we try dry needling, but it has been shown to be very effective in helping them continue recovery.

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