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How Does Dry Needling Fit Into My Rehab Program?


How Does Dry Needling Fit Into My Rehab Program?

Dry needling is a therapeutic intervention that uses a monofilament needle  to improve mobility, normalize muscle function, and decrease pain through restoring a muscle’s normal resting tone.  When our bodies undergo excessive stress in either an acute or chronic environment we can get an abnormal amount of input into the muscle via its innervating nerve.  Dry needling acts to restore normal electrical input, similar in theory as to why we defibrillate a heart that is undergoing an arrhythmia.  In essence, we are trying to bring that muscle back to its normal baseline.  Think about needling as hitting the “Reset Button” for a dysfunctional muscle.

Dry needling is highly effective for the treatment of muscular and soft tissue related ailments.  An area that can benefit from a massage or self-myofascial release technique is a candidate for dry needling. Needling is just a more direct way to address the underlying issue as to why that tissue is hypertonic.  Dry needling causes a localized twitch response in the area being needled, which is essentially the “release” of the once contracted muscle.  This twitch response is involuntary and is typically what most associate any “different” or “strange” sensations during the needling procedure.  The twitch response is normal and expected and can result in light localized soreness following the session. This will resolve within 12-48 hours and can be expedited if coupled with activity and a home program provided by your therapist.

As mentioned earlier, needling is way to bring us back to baseline.  It is a way to break the pain cycle, making activities of daily living and leisure more tolerable and enjoyable.  However, the goal of rehab is to address why the tissue became dysfunctional in the first place and how to decrease the likelihood of it happening again.  Sometimes the answer is simple.  It may have been the result of a traumatic event and as long as we avoid the provocative incident than we are highly unlikely to experience the same impairments.  Oftentimes, with the patient population we treat, we notice athletes becoming injured with tasks that should not have a damaging or painful outcome (weight lifting, running, cycling, etc.).  When athletes have non-traumatic injuries, it is usually the result of repetitive microtrauma and stresses to an area which accumulate over time.  The source of this excessive stress can be attributed to one of or any of the following factors:

  1. Poor movement quality due to positional/postural biases affecting strength and range of motion

  2. Programming or scheduling resulting in a higher than normal training volume/stress

  3. Lack of appropriate self-care routine prior to and following activity to adequately prep your for these events and activities

A detailed evaluation and assessment can answer questions in regards to the variables stated.  

Dry needling can be a powerful tool to help reduce pain and restore proper movement quality following injury and to prevent likelihood of future injuries.   If you have questions regarding whether needling is appropriate for you, consult a physical therapist at R2P and we would be more than happy to discuss your options and situation.