I recently had the opportunity and was fortunate enough to ride my bike in one of the most beautiful places in the United States.
Southwest Colorado, particularly the Durango and Silverton area. I thought it would be a good idea to test myself by riding the 50 miles between the two picturesque towns connected by the Animas river. This ride, the Iron Horse Classic, has been on my to do list for sometime and this was the year to put up or shut up.
After completing the ride and changing into warm, dry clothes I found myself thinking of all the things it took to get to this point.
I think about the earlier morning rides with friends and their amazing support and encouragement. The support and patience of my family, being gone for 2-4 hours on training rides. The ability to take some time away from work with the help of my colleagues at the clinic. All of these people and events came together for a great first experience in this challenging ride, not to mention a beautiful sunny morning to start the ride, after weeks of rain. Some snow on the high mountains was a little intimidating, but in the end, just added to the flavor of the ride. Yep, snow, still happens in May at 10,000 feet.
The real point of this story is not me reliving the fun of a cool bike ride, but really all the things that come together for any successful event. This is true for my story as it is for my amazing colleagues in the clinic and the wonderful clients that trust us to help them recover from their injuries and ailments. I get to help my clients and those of my colleagues with a very specific tool within physical therapy, dry needling, sometimes called trigger point dry needling.
What is this you ask? It is a tool, technique, strategy within physical therapy that can be a powerful intervention to help reduce muscle pain, stimulate the body’s natural healing response in muscles, tendons, ligaments, and allow a client to move to the next level of their recovery a little sooner. As with any intervention in therapy, your PT will decide if/when it is an appropriate intervention to use. It is a specialty service that requires training above and beyond the basic license to practice and does require particular attention to patient safety.
The technique uses a filiform needle, the same as an acupuncture needle, but for very different reasons and goals. As stated earlier, I would use a needle to help a muscle spasm/trigger point revert to a more normal physiologic state, disrupt the pain/spasm cycle and allow improved circulation to the area. This is particularly helpful for muscle pain and resumption of normal force production or absorption by this muscle. Acupuncture is a tool used within the Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) model of total body assessment and treatment based on that paradigm and philosophy to restore energy (Chi/Qi) flow in the body to improve health.
In addition to improving specific muscle physiology to a more normal state, dry needling can also be used to stimulate deeper layers of muscle, tendon, ligament where my thumb or elbow may not be able to reach so well in the application of a technique called cross fiber or cross friction massage. The needle itself becomes an extension of my hands to create a localized healing response in the injured tissue. This is an example where more than one session would be necessary to continue the recovery of the tissue to tolerate the stress it normally would in its role in our body’s motion or stability demands. If any tissue in the body is able to do its job as it is intended to in a non-injured state, the presence of pain or further dysfunctional movement is greatly reduced and our body is more efficient. In this state, the rest of the therapy treatment plan can be realized to its full potential to help someone strengthen, stabilize, or just learn a new more efficient way to move through their day.
So, just as I needed help from many sources to have a good ride over two 10,000 foot mountain passes, dry needling can be a source to help a PT plan achieve the results a client and therapist are aiming for with a course of therapy. A great journey begins with one step, and recovery from injury also takes many steps, dry needling can be a step in the right direction for you.
Want to know more about Dry Needling? Click HERE for more information.