In Motion Therapy Proudly Announces: Dry Needling
Hey, Amber Laura here (AL for short), physical therapy aide with In Motion Therapy. I recently sat down with our very own physical therapist (PT), Monica Bertani to talk about the new procedure she’s offering at our clinic: Dry Needling.
A relatively new concept to physical therapy, dry needling is very much what it sounds like: small needles, without medication or injection, are inserted through the skin to alleviate pain. To better understand the process, its benefits, and why Monica has been drawn to this style of pain treatment, I thought I’d let her do the talking.
Amber Laura: Can you please briefly describe what dry needling is? How does it work?
Monica: Dry needling is a technique used to treat muscular trigger points. It involves the use of a very small needle (similar to an acupuncture needle) being inserted directly into the trigger point. The needle elicits a muscle twitch, which then helps break apart the muscle fibers that are forming the trigger point. The release of a trigger point helps to improve blood flow and thereby helps to decrease pain and tenderness.
Muscle is made up of bundles of fibers (picture a fiber optic cable) that contract to shorten the muscle and produce a desired movement. This is triggered by a signal from the nervous system, which then causes a release of chemicals which tells the muscle “Hey, move”. This is a muscle contraction. When the muscle is done performing its movement, the nerves release different chemicals which tell the muscle fibers to relax and be done contracting.
Trigger points are small bundles of muscle fibers that haven’t relaxed along with the rest of the muscle. The nervous system is the one being blamed for this. Nerves can provide too much stimulus to a part of the muscle. This, by consequence, depletes the necessary chemicals used for relaxation of the muscle. The irony here is the lack of contractions from the muscle also decreases blood supply, which doesn’t allow for chemicals to be replenished. This also makes the area very tender.
AL: How is it different from acupuncture?
M: I tell my patients acupuncture is a more holistic treatment, closer to what one would expect from Eastern Medicine. It involves the placement of multiple needles in specific sites that are intended to bring about a desired effect (relaxation, improved balance, decreased pain, you name it). Dry needling is much more black and white. A trigger point is identified, the needle is inserted, the desired muscle twitch occurs, and the needle is removed.
AL: What drew you to dry needling?
M: At In Motion Therapy, we like to look at the whole body for the answer to people's musculoskeletal problems. We address biomechanics through bone alignment and joint mobility, we address the pelvic floor as a part of the core, and now we have the ability to use dry needling to address soft tissue restrictions. Additionally, I have a friend who is a physical therapist that got certified in dry needling. Her testimonies helped me realize what a valuable tool it can be.
AL: It’s been about six months since you introduced dry needling to our clinic—can you tell me some success stories you’ve witnessed in that time?
M: The best thing about dry needling is how quickly we can see results. On most patients, we immediately see a change in range of motion and a reduction in pain. The latest success story is someone coming in with shoulder pain after falling on the ice. We've been using dry needling around the shoulder and she obtained more range of motion faster than any other post-injury shoulder patient I've had.
AL: What should patients know about dry needling?
M: Like other physical therapy intervention, it’s not always as pleasant as receiving a massage. All dry needling should be followed up with consistent stretching (to reduce soreness) as well as retraining of surrounding muscles to prevent the re-formation of the problematic trigger point. Despite stretching, patients may still experience some soreness. I describe the soreness as being similar to muscle soreness after a workout.
AL: Does it hurt?
M: The needle is of such a small gauge most people don’t even feel when it has been inserted into the muscle. Depending on how sensitive the patient is, they may feel a small prick (similar to a pin prick) when the needle first goes through the skin. After that, the biggest sensation is of the muscle twitching. This can sometimes produce an achy feeling but is usually very quick.
AL: What patients would benefit most from this type of therapy?
M: I was surprised at the variety of populations that could benefit from dry needling. People before/after surgery can benefit from the treatment of trigger points in order to help progress rehabilitation. People with chronic pain may be able to benefit because the reduction of trigger points can be associated with the ability to increase activity level (note: it is not a miracle cure for chronic pain). Patients that have jobs that involve repetitive movement – whether that is lifting or typing – could see a benefit from trigger point therapy as well.
AL: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
M: This is not a treatment for anyone with a needle phobia! This may seem like an obvious statement, but sometimes the promise of getting rid of a nagging trigger point can make people overlook this. There is also a mild precaution for people taking blood thinners, although the odds of any adverse events occurring due to this are slim. Additional precautions include cellulitis or psoriasis, bleeding or vascular disorders, surgical implants, lymphedema, and communication impairments. Patients as young as 12 years old can participate in dry needling, with parental consent. The needles used are nickel or chromium, so there could be a risk of allergic reaction.
Sound interesting? All we require is a doctor’s order to set up scheduling immediately.
And remember, ask for Monica Bertani!
Office number: (218) 727-1180