Posts in dry needling
Dry Needling for Muscle Pain

Dry Needling performed by licensed Physical Therapists is gaining momentum in clinics and research trials across the country.  This intervention can be an excellent treatment for patients suffering from pain and trigger points within their muscles.  Trigger points are hyper irritable bands of tissue contributing to pain, loss of flexibility, and impaired strength in patients.  The dry needling technique leads to beneficial physiological changes in pain, circulation, nervous system function, and muscle performance.  When combined with other proven Physical Therapy interventions such as manual therapy and exercise, dry needling offers patients lasting relief of their symptoms.  

A recent review of available research trials (randomized controlled trials) on the effectiveness of dry needling was performed to determine the treatment's effectiveness on trigger points in multiple body areas (Boyles et al. JMMT. 2016).  19 research trials were investigated by the authors including over 1000 patients.  Authors noted the available high quality evidence supports the utilization of dry needling for multiple muscle groups with improvements noted in pain, range of motion, and quality of life.    These improvements were noted in all regions of the body including the head, trunk and extremities.  

Patients are encouraged to discuss the appropriateness of dry needling for their pain and symptoms with their Physical Therapist.

Dry Needling for Low Back Pain

Dry needling treatments performed by Physical Therapists have gained in popularity among both clinicians and patients.  The treatment is designed to reduce pain and restore muscle function.   Inserting small, monofilament needs into trigger points within painful muscle groups can lead to immediate changes in pain and movement.  While the mechanism of these treatments is still being investigated early research indicates beneficial changes in circulation, nervous system, and muscle function are noted after Dry Needling.  Consistent with many other treatments for a patient's pain there is likely a group of patients with pain who will benefit most from this Physical Therapy intervention.    

Prior research has identified baseline examination items which help predict success with this treatment (Koppenhaver et al. JOSPT. 2015).  72 patients with low back pain underwent an examination followed by a single treatment of dry needling by a Physical Therapist.  These patients were re assessed one week after treatment.  Patients who experienced pain during the exam on a muscle activation test had the best response to the dry needling.  These findings make sense given the treatment's attempt to decrease muscular or myofascial pain often provoked by muscle contraction or stretch.  

This same author recently completed a second study to determine which clinical changes are associated with reductions in pain and disability following Physical Therapy dry needling (Koppenhaver et al. Man Ther. 2016).  66 patients with low back pain underwent one session of dry needling to the lumbar muscles following a Physical Therapy examination and ultrasound assessment of their low back muscles.  Pain threshold was assessed based on the patient's ability to tolerate pressure across the lumbar spine.  The authors found the individuals with the greatest improvement in symptoms and function after needling also had the greatest improvements in pain tolerance and muscle function at 1 week post needling.  

This evidence adds to our knowledge on the effects of dry needling in patients with low back pain.  Those who respond best to this treatment may be individuals who have the greatest improvements in pain and lumbar muscle function.  To learn more on how dry needling can decrease your pain and improve your function contact your local Physical Therapist.