Human Performance and Rehabilitation Centers, Inc.

Dry Needling: Let’s Get to the Point

dryneedl500
Therapy that includes the word “needle” is an attention-grabber, but for a growing number of patients, dry needling is a game changer for managing pain and increasing mobility.

We’ve seen great results using dry needling in a variety of patients, including a chronic migraine sufferer in her 50s who was able to stop taking the prescription drugs she’d relied on for years after just a few sessions. In another case, dry needling helped a high school soccer player hindered by severe hip and glute strain regain his performance and play without pain. We’ve also used the intervention in a breast cancer survivor in her 40s who was eager to regain arm movement after a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Dry needling was an individual component of a complex therapy regimen, but a very important one. It helped our patient regain the ability to raise her arms above her shoulders and meet her goal of competing in a local charity dance event.

Because of its success rate and its ability to treat numerus pain-related conditions, dry needling has quickly become a popular therapy intervention across the country. Availability depends on state laws. HPRC was the first physical therapy provider in the region to offer dry needling several years ago, and we continue to be a leader in the field. Several of our PTs have become certified in this technique, completing 50 hours of additional training. Used in concert with manual therapies, this safe and effective practice is being used routinely across the U.S. to treat a range of common and unusual conditions.

How does dry needling work? What’s happening in terms of the body’s neuromuscular function is complex, but the short version is that small filament needles are carefully inserted into trigger points, areas we commonly refer to as “knots” in the muscle. They’re located below the skin’s surface within the muscle and connective tissue. Dry needling differs from acupuncture in that it’s based on medical principles supported by research, as opposed to an Eastern form of medicine that focuses on the body’s energy. Dry needling elicits a muscle twitch response that can be temporarily uncomfortable, but this is far outweighed by the benefits normally seen.

Before we begin dry needling, we locate trigger points through careful assessment and palpation. Trigger points occur when an overstressed muscle tries to heal itself, creating a ball of angry tissue that can trigger pain in other parts of the body. By inserting a needle into a trigger point, we force it to let go of that tension, effectively “resetting” the muscle and nerves and restoring their function. One of the most hopeful aspects of dry needling is that the targeted pain isn’t likely to return; there’s a good chance we’ve eliminated it long-term.

How to protect your child from an overuse injury

Bryce Gaunt, PT, SCS
Director of Physical Therapy
HRPC St. Francis Rehabilitation Center – Main Campus

Over the last 20 years, a growing number of children have become involved in youth sports. Keeping kids active is a positive trend, but in today’s hyper-competitive environment, it’s important to protect young athletes from overuse injuries.

An overuse injury results from excessive physical activity without adequate rest and recovery, and it occurs when the body’s workload is consistently greater than its level of fitness. Children who train and or compete intensely over time are more at risk for overuse injuries. This is especially true for the growing number of young athletes who play one sport year-round, what we call sports specialization.

We tend to think of kids as having unlimited flexibility and endurance, but they’re actually at higher risk for overuse injury because their bodies are still growing and developing and they’re doing so at constantly changing rates. Kids’ muscles, bones, joints and coordination are not yet mature, and they can’t handle the same kinds of trianing that a healthy adult might.

Consider the following:

• Overuse injuries account for half of all athletic injuries in children and teens.
• Young people are at nearly double the risk of injury when they participate in more hours of sports practice per week than their number of years in age, or where the ratio of organized sports to free play time is in excess of 2:1.
• Young people are more than eight times more likely to be injured if they train more than 16 hours per week.

There are many things we can do to safeguard against overuse injuries. Keep the following in mind:

• Appropriate training can decrease the likelihood of injury as much as 50%.
• Recovery is essential. Adequate rest and proper nutrition are key to helping a young body recover.
• Kids should participate in a wide variety of sports. This provides different stresses to the body, and improves athletic development through a wide range of movements.
• Training intensity should vary over the course of a year and include periods of high and low intensity.
• Proper stretching is key. Children tend to have excessively tight muscles due to their growing bones. A regular stretching regime can reduce injury risk.

Remember, the goal is to make sure that any kind of training is appropriate for a child’s fitness level and stage of growth and development. The workload must fit the body’s capacity to do the work.