Over the years I have seen many modalities come and go in the clinical setting. When I first started out, electrical stimulation was all the rage, then ultrasound, then laser…and on and on. What I noticed was that these treatments were not able to provide patients with lasting relief. I was convinced that they were only good for acute injuries or managing pain temporarily. That was until I was trained in Dry Needling Therapy.

I started Dry Needling Therapy in 2015 and can say it has been one of the most valuable treatment techniques in managing chronic pain, acute pain, muscle stiffness and spasm, edema and swelling, and painful muscle trigger points. With very little risk for complications, I have seen Dry Needling make the difference in patients who have been dealing with issues that were not going away with traditional therapeutic exercise and manual techniques. Physical Therapists have the benefit of studying not only the anatomy but also the neurological impact on the soft tissue structures of the body. This in-depth education allows your PT to perform the technique on patients of all ages safely and efficiently.

Like acupuncture, dry needling uses the same thick monofilament needles but instead of just penetrating the superficial layers of tissue it goes through the muscles, ligaments, tendons, or scar tissue. Unlike the traditional Chinese theory of medicine, dry needling is based on modern physiology and neurology. Dry needling is termed “dry” because there is no fluid or medication that is injected into the body.

In addition to targeting trigger points of the soft tissue, dry needling also targets the neural and connective tissues. As the needle penetrates the different layers of soft tissue, nerve endings are stimulated that may result in pain reduction. This is important since these nerve endings can influence a patient’s perception of their current pain level. Unlike deep tissues massage, dry needling penetrates the muscle with pinpoint accuracy providing relief of the affected tissue without putting unnecessary strain on the unaffected parts. With all the new and improved exercises to go along with the many versions of manual treatments, sometimes just a few needles is necessary to break out of the vicious cycle of pain.

Although the research is relatively new for this type of treatment, the general consensus is favorable. In my own personal experience both as a patient and a clinician, I have seen the benefits of dry needling on various musculoskeletal issues such as low back pain, rotator cuff tendinitis, patellofemoral pain, and Achilles tendinitis to name a few. If you find yourself spinning your wheels in your recovery, you may want to talk to your physical therapist and find out if dry needling is right for you.

*As of this post dry needling is not within the scope of physical therapists in the states of California, Utah, New York, Idaho, Hawaii, and Florida.

Yours in Health,

Keith Pacific