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Is Trigger Point Needling the Specialized Physical Therapy You Need?


May 16, 2018

Do you suffer from muscle spasms or tightness? You are not alone. In fact, more than 20 million Americans experience them each year. You may have tried to self-treat you muscle spasms or tightness using hot or cold packs, topical creams or even have tried electric shock machines. You may also have been to your doctor to try medications or other treatments—and still no luck. Don’t worry, you have not run out of options. A method that is used in specialized physical therapy to help is trigger point dry needling. Learn more about this type of therapy and how it can help you reduce or eliminate your muscle tightness and spasms.

Common Trigger Point Related Pains and Ailments

There are several different ailments that people suffer from on a daily basis that trigger point therapy can help. In order to solve these, it is important to learn a little bit about some of the most common issues.
  • Neck and shoulder pain: Your neck and shoulders are closely connected. With even the smallest of injuries or problems, you can experience pain or a tightness in the region. This pain can make it difficult to move your head side to side or lift your arm. Improper lifting or posture, sleeping in awkward positions or shifting improperly while playing sports are some of the common reasons for neck and/or shoulder injuries. A common diagnosis of this is myofascial pain syndrome, which is due to a muscle contracting in a repetitive manner. The end result can make you feel an aching pain.
  • Lower back pain: Lower back pain is very common, with sufferers experiencing a deal of pain not only in their lower back, but also in the buttocks, hamstrings, and hips. Sometimes the pain is constant, while other time it can creep up. You could be having lower back pain due to a strain or sprain, disc disease, trauma from an accident, poor posture, and much more.  
  • Arm pain: Common trigger points in the arms are in the upper part of the arm or forearms. This makes it difficult to lift or turn the arm, or movements where there is rotating of the shoulder. These arm injuries may happen due to an improper movement, lifting incorrectly, and more.
  • Temples: Headaches of the temple (sides of the head) are known as temporal headaches. They are also commonly known as tension headaches. A common cause for these is TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder). When getting a tension headache, it feels like there is a tightness and pressure on both sides of your head or even above your eyes. You may find temporary relief by rubbing or applying pressure to the temples. There is also a throbbing feeling or sharp pains. If there is damage to the nerves, there may also be tingling or numbness. In addition to this pain, sufferers may also experience changes in vision, toothaches, jaw pain, dizziness, nausea, tinnitus or sinus issues.

What are Trigger Points?

Think of a trigger point as a knot in the muscle that is deep under the skin. It feels like the area is bunched up and happens because the muscles are compressed. Common causes of this injury are due to poor posture, improper lifting, over exerting oneself or overusing. Once this happens, the area is extremely tender. In addition, you may feel like the area is “hot,” or you could experience a numb feeling, similar to when a limb falls asleep. The pain can be constant or there may be flare-ups. Every situation is unique.

Connecting Trigger Point Therapy with Pain and Knotted Muscles

For decades, one of the ways doctors and physical therapists have helped patients is through trigger point therapy. It is also known as “dry needling.” During this process, filament needles are placed in the skin all the way to the muscle. From there, the needle will help to break up the bunching that has occurred. How? When the filament needs are inserted, and the area starts to break up, it causes movement. This movement is positive to reduce or eliminate the pressure that is causing the pain.

Once the needle is inserted, the muscle will twitch, kicking off the movement process. In addition to relief from the pain, a person will also regain normal movement again. Each person is different, including the level of improvement.

There are three types of trigger points: active, latent and satellite. When you are experiencing pain and symptoms, that is when you have an active trigger point. With a latent trigger point, you may not be experiencing pain, but the area is culminating for issues. Or, the pain may arise when it is interacted with. For instance, you may have had an active trigger point that turned latent. No matter which of these you have, trigger point dry needling can help. Your physical therapist will help set up the perfect plan for you to have a certain number of appointments to help you with your trigger point issues. Satellite trigger points are points that occur due to activity in another area. By one pain undergoing pain or pressure, it can cause other areas to have pain and pressure too.

Also, you might be wondering, “Is trigger point dry needling the same as acupuncture?” No, it isn’t. But acupuncture and myofascial trigger therapy treat same pain areas.  

Benefits of Dry Needling

The main benefit that people think of with dry needling trigger point therapy is relief! Therapists are able to access these directly and find the source of the issue through feeling, as you will normally not be able to find them on a scan.

Once this occurs, the muscles will quickly begin to loosen up. This will reduce the pressure and “cramp” or “tight” feeling that you may be experiencing. In addition, the dry needling helps to increase blood flow within the area normally again, allowing the body to have proper oxygen circulation.

When it comes to Denver trigger point dry needling services, Cherry Creek Wellness Center can help. By making an appointment, our team will assess your situation and put you on a plan for recovery. Our team will help you loosen knots and reduce your pain. To learn more and set up your appointment, call us at 303-333-3493 or leave us a message.