Your Health Lindsay Guinaugh | 7 years ago

Trouble Pinning Down the Pain? Try Dry Needling

A form of intramuscular stimulation, dry needling has quickly been embraced by many as a useful, legitimate treatment for muscle pain.

By: Andrew Ball, PT, DPT, PhD, OCS Carolinas HealthCare System's Carolinas Rehabilitation Dry needling is an evidence-based physical therapy option and more experts than ever speak of the effectiveness of pain science as a viable alternative to traditional techniques such as ultrasound. Dry needling involves inserting thin needles into the patient’s skin for muscular stimulation. Unlike acupuncture, which targets “meridians” within the body for pain relief, dry needling involves inserting a needle deeper into the tissue to target “trigger points,” or knots, in the muscle. Inserting the needle directly into the trigger point will prompt a small muscle spasm which “calms” the nervous system and massages the taut band within the muscle.

“The point of dry needling is actually not just pain relief,” said Dr. Ball. “It’s pain relief in the progress of restoring motion. It’s manual therapy — like massaging someone’s muscle or manipulating someone’s neck or back.”

Michael Hall of Charlotte, NC, a patient of Carolinas Rehabilitation, said dry needling therapy was a last resort that ended up paying huge dividends. Hall, who for years has struggled with back spasms related to an unknown injury sustained in his youth, has been completely pain-free and without a spasm since undergoing three 15-minute dry-needling sessions. Hall, who had tried electroconvulsive therapy and weekly physical therapy sessions (among other treatments), admitted he was apprehensive when introduced to dry needling. “I was cautious at first,” said Hall. “But after reading some online testimonials, I decided it was credible enough to try — I had exhausted all of my other options.” Most of Dr. Ball’s patients lead active lifestyles and are referred by a physiatrist. Of the patients he treats, about 85 percent achieve significant relief after just a few sessions. Though, dry needling isn’t for everyone, of course, and there are a few potential (albeit unlikely) risks. Treatment can also be uncomfortable and will most likely result in soreness in the muscle for one to three days following the session.  

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