Dry needling is a treatment technique used by physical therapists and other trained specialists that promotes tissue healing in specific areas of the body. It involves the insertion of thin filament needles into painful trigger points on your body, which in turn kickstarts an inflammatory response by the body. This response brings increased blood flow and key neurochemicals to the area to aid in tissue recovery.
It can be helpful for a number of different types of patients, but it can be especially helpful for the recovering athlete who is attempting to overcome the rigors of regular intense physical activity. Below, we take a closer look at how athletes can benefit from dry needling at the hands of a physical therapist.
The Benefits Of Dry Needling For Athletes
You’re likely asking a lot of your muscles during athletic activity, and while exercise and athletics are great ways to strengthen your muscles, all this stress can also lead to minor muscle issues in the form of trigger points. A trigger point in a muscle is a painful “knot” in the muscle band that can be quite sensitive to the touch or when channeling strain through the muscle. They can develop after acute trauma to the muscle or due to chronic strain on an area, both of which tend to be common during athletics.
Dry needling can be the perfect treatment for these trigger point formations. Your physical therapist will carefully insert thin filament needles into the area of the trigger point. The needle’s presence creates microtrauma that alters the electrical and chemical activity in the area, helping to normalize it. This microtrauma serves to effectively deactivate the trigger point, which allows the surrounding muscle tissue to relax. It also brings increased white blood cells and plasma to the area, which can expedite the tissue repair process.
Dry needling can be especially helpful for athletes because:
- Athletes are more prone to muscle trigger point formation
- The treatment can speed up healing and tissue recovery
- It compliments active treatments, like stretching and PT exercises
- It does not involve potentially dangerous or addictive medication
- It may help to prevent the need for more invasive treatment
Many people hear the term dry needling, learn more about the process and jump to the conclusion that the treatment is essentially the same as acupuncture. While the techniques are broadly similar, they are also quite different and their underlying treatment process differs significantly.
Acupuncture is a 2,000-year-old Chinese healing practice that works to improve function by improving the body’s flow of energy (Qi) through meridian or energy point alternation. Some people swear by it, but it is less science-based than dry needling. Dry needling techniques are based on neuro-anatomy understanding and decades of scientific research on the effects of myofascial trigger point release. Dry needling alters the chemical and electrical activity in a specific area of the muscle to relax the tissue and allow the body to naturally kickstart the healing process.
Athletes who are dealing with soreness or muscle strains may be able to get back on the field sooner and with stronger muscles by having their trigger point formations targeted using dry needling techniques. Many of our physical therapists are trained in dry needling techniques, and we can help your body overcome these uncomfortable muscular knots. For more information, or to talk to a specialist about your recovery process after athletics, reach out to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today at (612) 339-2041.