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What is Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN)?

by leandre on March 12, 2013 · 2 comments

in Ask the Physical Therapist

by: Green Mountain Rehab

Do you have persistent pain that has not responded to conventional treatment?

Have you tried everything and that pain still comes back?  Do you just want to run pain-free, like the good ol’ days?  There is nothing like a feel-good run to burn off some steam – it can be better than any medication.  But if you have pain that you just can’t shake, it might be time to try a treatment called Trigger Point Dry Needling.  Physical therapists are now using acupuncture needles to help reduce pain, deactivate trigger points in muscles and promote healing to injured tendons and ligaments.

How does a little acupuncture needle help my running injury?

A trigger point is a band of muscle fibers stuck in a state of contraction (knot) and often is associated with pain.  The muscle fibers may be contracted due to numerous reasons such as: infection, trauma, poor posture, repetitive motion, overuse – similar causes to many running injuries.  To be clear, dry needling is not acupuncture.  In this technique, the needle penetrates the muscle and causes it to twitch and then immediately relax – improving blood flow and flexibility.  It also can have a healing effect (increased platelet cells) through increased blood flow to an area of the body that may not have much blood flow, like a tendon and/or ligament.

Ok, sounds interesting, but does it work?

Trigger Point Dry Needling is very effective and the science supports its effectiveness.  It is very popular outside of the US and in the western US, and is becoming more popular in the Northeast.  The results are often instantaneous – measured by improvements in functional movements before and after treatment.

How painful is this procedure?

Everyone is different – some people are very sore and others are not sore at all.  If you do experience treatment soreness,  it usually resolves within a day.

My pain is deep within my hip, I have had it for years, an MRI has confirmed a cartilage tear and I may need surgery.  I just want to run.  Will dry needling help?

It helps a lot of people, especially runners, because so many runners have tight muscles and overuse injuries to tendons.  Muscles can refer pain to many different areas of the body.  For instance, deep hip pain can be referred from your psoas muscle.

Read this patient’s experience with Trigger Point Dry Needling:

I have a tear in my acetabular labrum that became a problem about 7 years ago as I trained for my first marathon. My first round of treatment was a long series of physical therapy sessions, and regular strength. The issue is generally manageable with a little discomfort during my “normal” running routine. However training for distance races can result in what can be general discomfort with some intense pain during regular activity.

About a year and a half ago, I returned to Andy for some PT as the pain became worse, and he introduced what was then a new treatment he had completed training in – Trigger Point Dry Needling – TDN. I agreed to give it a try. The treatment itself is uncomfortable, but quick and the improvement was immediate. Sitting was no longer painful, and I didn’t wake at night in pain. My whole hip was much less tight, and I was able to do stretching on my own to follow up and maintain the improvement. I have returned to Andy a few times since then, as I still let the mileage build up too quickly sometimes, and each time I have had the same experience – quick treatment and immediate results.

Andy Bowen MS, PT, has been practicing Trigger Point Dry Needling at Green Mountain Rehab for the past two years with many successful outcomes.  If you have any questions, then please e-mail or call Green Mountain Rehab (802) 861-6700, located in downtown Burlington Vermont.

Run More Hurt Less.    

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeff Shedd January 16, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Hi Andy, What you did today already feels better…but I promise you I will not run today. After reading about your TDN procedure I am reluctant to have you try this on me for next weeks visit despite that I was too nervous about it today! Thanks for your great work! Jeff Shedd

2 andy January 30, 2014 at 11:14 am

Hey Jeff
Glad to hear you are feeling better. I am consistently surprised how helpful TDN is for many of our patients, however it is not for everyone. So no worries. Lets just keep doing what has been helping you already.
Do not fix what is not broken.

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