What is dry needling?
DRY NEEDLING IS A TECHNIQUE BEING USED BY PHYSICAL THERAPISTS TO DECREASE PAIN, SPEED RECOVERY AND MINIMIZE DOWNTIME.
The technique helps to “reset” muscles that have been damaged during training, racing, overuse, or poor mechanics in daily activities. This reset is performed on trigger points which can impair the neuromuscular and musculoskeletal performance of our bodies.
Trigger points (tightened bands of tissue caused by injury, overuse or new activities), can result in muscular pain and impaired movement patterns, which can be detrimental to activities such as swimming, cycling, or running. Based on symptoms, an experienced physical therapist can palpate painful and non-painful trigger points as well as taut bands of tissue in individual muscles. Then the physical therapist uses a thin monofilament needle to release the trigger point or taut band, allowing muscles to function properly and with less pain. This release results in improved gait patterns, stronger muscle contractions, and more productive workouts. To fully understand the benefits of dry needling, it may be helpful to understand how and why these trigger points occur in the endurance athlete.
During any exercise or activity, but especially during intense or repetitive exercise, muscle damage occurs on a cellular level. It has been proposed that this muscle damage causes an imbalance in the chemical makeup within the muscle fibers and this imbalance results in persistent muscle fiber contraction and increased sensitivity to touch. This trigger point can be a source of pain, limited range of motion and muscle inhibition.
Dry needling releases these taut bands and trigger points and restores the chemical balance in the muscle fibers, reducing pain and improving function.
Endurance athletes develop these trigger points in several common areas, including:
- Hip: glutes, piriformis, deep rotator muscles (hip bursitis, IT Band syndrome)
- Lumbar (low back): QL (quadratus lumborum) and paraspinal muscles (sciatica)
- Thigh: quads and hamstrings (IT Band syndrome, runner’s knee)
- Calf/foot: gastroc, soleus, peroneals, posterior/anterior tibialis (plantar fasciitis, shin splints)
- Neck/shoulders: traps, pectorals, lats (shoulder impingement, rotator cuff syndrome)
Addressing these trigger points with dry needling, along with a formal assessment of your strength, range of motion, and mechanics can help you achieve or return to optimal pain free performance.How dry needling differs from acupuncture:
How dry needling differs from acupuncture:
“Health care education and practice have developed in such a way that most professions today share some procedures, tools, or interventions with other regulated professions. It is unreasonable to expect a profession to have exclusive domain over an intervention, tool, or modality.”
“The practice of acupuncture by acupuncturists and the performance of dry needling by physical therapists differ in terms of historical, philosophical, indicative, and practical context. The performance of modern dry needling by physical therapists is based on western neuroanatomy and modern scientific study of the musculoskeletal and nervous system. Physical therapists who perform dry needling do not use traditional acupuncture theories or acupuncture terminology.”*
DRY NEEDLING IS NOT ONLY FOR ATHLETES. IT CAN BENEFIT ANYONE WHO IS LIMITED BY PAIN OR INJURY IN THEIR DAILY ACTIVITIES.
Article by: Jon Paryz,
Physical Therapist with The Endurance Edge
If you have any questions, contact Jon at (919) 414-7475 or schedule an appointment here.
*Source: APTA document Physical Therapists & the Performance of Dry Needling: An Educational Resource Paper