Posted: Monday, January 30, 2023

Dry Needling Therapy for Pain Management

If you suffer from muscle discomfort or pain and are looking for alternative to pain medications or steroid injections, dry needling can help. Dry needling is an evidence-based, minimally invasive, safe, nonaddictive treatment for muscular pain and function. “It is most commonly used with people who experience myofascial (muscle) pain and can be used as an alternative to narcotics for pain relief,” Rebecca Morris, outpatient manager for Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation explains. “Some common conditions that can be treated with dry needling are carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, facial muscle conditions such as Bell’s palsy or TMJ, spinal dysfunction, and athletic injuries. Most of the research out there indicates it’s just as effective as a steroid injection. In fact, a lot of people will try dry needling prior to that,” Morris adds.

Dry needling also is sometimes called intramuscular stimulation or myofascial trigger point needling. The word “dry” is used because the treatment does not involve the injection of any fluids. The only similarity to acupuncture is the type of needle used, otherwise they are different treatments. Morris refers to dry needling therapy as “pushing reset on a computer, in that you are resetting the muscle to fire normally and to contract and relax normally.” Morris explains that, since dry needling can relax and reset the problem area, most patients have immediate pain relief and reduced inflammation. Unlike traditional physical therapy, which usually requires multiple sessions, dry needling may only need one session to relieve muscle discomfort and pain. However, if the area becomes painful or uncomfortable in the future, another dry needling session can be scheduled.

How does it work? “Very fine needles – as fine as a horse’s hair – are inserted by a certified therapist into the spots where a muscle is knotted or painful, creating a twitch response where the muscle contracts under the needle. The needle, sometimes in combination with E-Stim – short for electric muscle stimulation therapy – helps release the tension and relieve the muscle pain or spasms. A lot of patients don’t even feel the needle enter, and there are very few side effects to it. It’s a sterile process, with a sterile needle, the therapist is gloved up and taking all the usual cleaning and infection precautions. We’ve had no infections reported after needling at all,” Morris said. After a dry needling session, few have experienced minimal soreness in the muscle, similar to soreness experienced after exercise.

It is important to ask about qualifications and education when considering a dry needling practitioner. “We have certified dry needling therapists in all six of our outpatient Total Rehabilitation locations, and many are level-two certified,” Morris said. Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation has facilities in Blount and Monroe counties, so there are many options close to home. However, dry needling is not recommended for children under age 12.

To make an appointment for dry needling, ask your provider if you are a candidate for a referral or call Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation at 865-238-6118.

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