Trigger Point Dry Needling
When it comes to what we call Trigger Point Dry Needling or Dry Needling (TPDN) you’re in one of a few boats. You’ve either never heard of it and are thinking that sounds scary, you’ve heard about it from a friend or family member who has had it done and still thinks it sounds scary, or you’ve had it done yourself and most likely love it. Or maybe you are somewhere in between but you would love to know more about it before you let someone just grab you with a needle. So here is an explanation of what it is, the wonderful benefits, as well as clear up any misconceptions.
Some of the most frequently asked questions I get about TPDN are the following…
1. What is TPDN?
2. Is it like acupuncture?
3. Does it hurt and what will I feel?
4. What are the benefits?
5. Is it safe?
1. What is dry needling?
TPDN has been around since the 1940’s but has been gaining popularity in the physical therapy world over the last 1-2 decades because of it’s benefits and effectiveness. Dry needling is a technique used by physical therapist with a goal of reducing pain, restoring muscle function and length, and releasing muscles or deactivating trigger points a.k.a. “knots”. It uses very thin, filament needles designed to not damage the tissue as it passes through muscle and other soft tissue. It is called “dry” needling because there is absolutely nothing being injected. It was actually discovered in a study when being compared with “wet” needling or injectable medications like steroids, and they found that the results were very similar if not better.
2. Is it like Acupuncture?
No, dry needling is completely different from Acupuncture. Dry needling is a technique used to treat the neuromusculoskeletal systems based on pain patterns, muscular dysfunction, and other orthopedic signs and symptoms which depends upon physical examination and assessment to guide the treatment. Dry needling is evidence based Western medicine, opposed to Acupuncture which is a technique for balancing the Chi believed to flow through meridian pathways in your body.
3. Does it hurt?
This answer is solely dependent on the person receiving the treatment. Everyone has different pain tolerances but almost everyone agrees that the outcomes greatly outweigh any minor discomfort.
It’s a very difficult sensation to describe to someone that hasn’t experienced it. You aren’t necessarily feeling the needle itself but the local twitch response of the muscle. This can be felt in the form of a twitching/cramping/aching feeling happening deep inside or internally.
It commonly will also reproduce your pain patterns for a brief few seconds to a few minutes. This is actually when we know it’s going to be most effectiveness because we’ve targeted the correct trigger point causing the pain.
Either way, any discomfort is very short lived. Once the needle is either left to sit or removed after 5-10 seconds, any of that discomfort will be gone and what you will likely be left with is soreness very similar to working out for the first time in a long time. This typically lasts no more than 24 hours and often decreases the more treatment you have.
Please, don’t let the thought of pain hold you back from experiencing the amazing benefits it can provide you.
4. What are the benefits?
TPDN has so many benefits. The most popular and sought after one is decreasing pain that is being caused by a trigger point. And for some this can happen almost immediately or within 1-3 sessions of dry needling. A trigger point is a “knot” or a tight band of muscle that causes pain either locally or to a distant location, which often causes misdiagnosis without a thorough evaluation.
Trigger points or irritated, hypersensitized muscles can be caused from many different things but the big ones in our society is the stress and strain caused by repetitive activities, abnormal/poor postures, and compensation due to muscle weakness.
The main goal of dry needling is to desensitize supersensitive structures, restore muscles function, length, and promote healing in the tissue. This can benefit almost anyone with conditions ranging from Chronic Pain Syndrome, acute injuries, referred pain down the arms or legs, low back pain, as well as preventing rotator cuff or knee surgery. Athletes are another population that greatly benefit from dry needling because of the repetitive strain they put on their muscles.
Benefits can often be seen and felt immediately in the same session. Most people experience a significant reduction in what once were painful activities, as well as noticeably improved movement patterns. This could be more range of motion, better motor control or stability, or increased tolerance to sitting/standing/walking/etc.
5. Is it safe?
When performed by a trained and licensed physical therapist, dry needling is very safe. In our clinic we use a “clean” technique and only ever use individually packaged, disposable needles. Although we rarely have this occur, bruising and very minor bleeding can occur.
Dry needling has very few side effects, the most common one being soreness. But there is a more serious one you want to be aware of. When this technique is performed around the lung field and with poor practitioner technique, there is a possibility of a pneumothorax or punctured lung. This is very rare with an experienced practitioner, however, you should be aware of the symptoms which are pain in the chest, bubble feeling in the chest, and shortness of breath. If you ever experience any of these symptoms after receiving dry needling, please call your physician immediately.
Frequency Specific Micocurrent
What is frequency-specific microcurrent?
Frequency-specific microcurrent (FSM) is a technique for treating pain by using low-level electrical current. The current is delivered to certain parts of the body in an attempt to relieve the pain.
A frequency is the rate at which a sound wave or electronic pulse is produced. This measurement is registered in hertz (Hz). In using FSM to treat pain, it’s been found that various frequencies can be used to potentially reduce inflammation (swelling), repair tissue, and reduce pain.
How does frequency-specific microcurrent work?
FSM is applied to the body with a device that delivers a mild current. Microcurrent is an extremely mild electrical current (one millionth of an ampere). The human body actually produces its own current within each cell.
In FSM, depending on the tissue involved, specific frequencies are selected to encourage natural healing of the body and to reduce pain. Frequencies have been identified for nearly every type of tissue in the body.
One of the ways FSM works is by potentially increasing the production of the substance ATP in injured tissues. ATP is the major source of energy for all cellular reactions in the body. Because treatment with FSM can increase ATP production by as much as 500% in damaged tissues, this may help with the recovery process. Depending on the condition, treatment with FSM can “loosen” or soften the muscles, which can help relieve pain and/or stiffness.
What conditions can be treated with frequency-specific microcurrent?
FSM is most often used to treat pain, especially nerve and muscle pain, inflammation, and scar tissue, from the following conditions:
Irritable bowel syndrome
Neuromas (overgrowth and scarring to a nerve after an injury)
Tendinopathy (inflammation and/or swelling of the tendon)
Acute (sudden) and chronic (long-term) musculoskeletal injuries
Acute and chronic neuropathic (nerve) pain
Chronic fracture and bone pain
Torticollis (the head is tilted to one side)
Disc injuries/discogenic- and facet-based pain
Plantar fasciitis (pain in the heel and foot)
Is frequency-specific microcurrent painful?
Treatment with FSM is non-invasive and painless. The currents used in FSM are so low that the patient often does not feel them. During FSM treatment, patients may notice certain effects, including warmth and a softening of affected tissues.
What is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy helps people of all ages who have medical conditions, illnesses or injuries that limit their regular ability to move and function.
A customized physical therapy program can help individuals return to their prior level of functioning, and encourage activities and lifestyle changes that can help prevent further injury and improve overall health and well being. Primary care doctors often refer patients to physical therapy at the first sign of a problem, since it is considered a conservative approach to managing problems. Wondering what makes physical therapy so important? Here are 10 ways it may benefit you:
1. Reduce or eliminate pain. Therapeutic exercises and manual therapy techniques such as joint and soft tissue mobilization or treatments such as ultrasound, taping or electrical stimulation can help relieve pain and restore muscle and joint function to reduce pain. Such therapies can also prevent pain from returning.
2. Avoid surgery. If physical therapy helps you eliminate pain or heal from an injury, surgery may not be needed. And even if surgery is required, you may benefit from pre-surgery physical therapy. If you are going into a surgery stronger and in better shape, you will recover faster afterwards in many cases. Also, by avoiding surgery, health care costs are reduced.
3. Improve mobility. If you’re having trouble standing, walking or moving—no matter your age—physical therapy can help. Stretching and strengthening exercises help restore your ability to move. Physical therapists can properly fit individuals with a cane, crutches or any other assistive device, or assess for orthotic prescription. By customizing an individual care plan, whatever activity that is important to an individual’s life can be practiced and adapted to ensure maximal performance and safety.
4. Recover from a stroke. It’s common to lose some degree of function and movement after stroke. Physical therapy helps strengthen weakened parts of the body and improve gait and balance. Physical therapists can also improve stroke patients’ ability to transfer and move around in bed so that they can be more independent around the home, and reduce their burden of care for toileting, bathing, dressing and other activities of daily living.
5. Recover from or prevent a sports injury. Physical therapists understand how different sports can increase your risk for specific types of injuries (such as stress fractures for distance runners). They can design appropriate recovery or prevention exercise programs for you to ensure a safe return to your sport.
6. Improve your balance and prevent falls . When you begin physical therapy, you will get screened for fall risk. If you’re at high risk for falls, therapists will provide exercises that safely and carefully challenge your balance as a way to mimic real-life situations. Therapists also help you with exercises to improve coordination and assistive devices to help with safer walking. When the balance problem is caused by a problem in one’s vestibular system, Physical therapists can perform specific maneuvers that can quickly restore proper vestibular functioning, and reduce and eliminate symptoms of dizziness or vertigo.
7. Manage diabetes and vascular conditions. As part of an overall diabetes management plan, exercise can help effectively control blood sugar. Additionally, people with diabetes may have problems with sensation in their feet and legs. Physical therapists can help provide and educate these patients on proper foot care to prevent further problems down the road.
8. Manage age-related issues . As individuals age, they may develop arthritis or osteoporosis or need a joint replacement. Physical therapists are experts in helping patients recover from joint replacement, and manage arthritic or osteoporotic conditions conservatively.
9. Manage heart and lung disease. While patients may complete cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack or procedure, you also may receive physical therapy if your daily functioning is affected. For pulmonary problems, physical therapy can improve quality of life through strengthening, conditioning and breathing exercises, and help patients clear fluid in the lungs.
10. Manage Women’s Health and other conditions. Women have specific health concerns, such as with pregnancy, post-partum care and pelvic pain, . Physical therapists can offer specialized management of issues related to women’s health. Additionally, PT can provide specialized treatment for: Breast cancer, constipation, fibromyalgia, lymphedema and urinary incontinence.