The famed Mayo Clinic defines myofascial pain
as “a chronic pain disorder…[that] typically occurs after a muscle has been contracted repetitively. This can be caused by repetitive motions used in jobs or hobbies or in stress-related tension.” Treatment of myofascial pain may include physical therapy, trigger point injections, medication, relaxation, and dry needling techniques. Where allowed by state law, specialized physical therapy may include use of dry needling to treat myofascial pain.
Symptoms of myofascial pain include a deep, aching pain in a muscle, pain that persists or worsens, and pain that makes sleeping difficult. PT in Motion, published by the American Physical Therapy Association, recounts the story of Karen Kitchener, who had been misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia and prescribed strong pain medication. She credits trigger point needling with freeing her from a 15 years of pain and five years spent in a wheelchair.
Trigger point dry needling involves no medication or injection and is not synonymous with traditional Chinese acupuncture. “Physical Therapists & the Performance of Dry Needling
,” published by the APTA Department of Practice and APTA State Government Affairs in January 2012, states: “The performance of modern dry needling by physical therapists is based on western neuroanatomy and modern scientific study of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems.”
In this type of therapy a sterile, thin, filiform needle is inserted through the skin into areas of the muscle known as trigger points. The trigger point refers to a “taut band of muscle located within a larger muscle group.” Such muscles may be tender and touching a trigger point can cause pain in other areas of the body. Insertion of the needle stimulates the trigger point, allowing the physical therapist to target tissues that cannot be palpated manually. After use, the needles are disposed of in a medical sharps collector; they are not reused.
The objective of trigger point needling is to relieve pain by causing trigger points to contract and relax. The patient typically feels minimal discomfort when the trigger point is stimulated, followed by immediate relief of pain.
Tim Flynn, PT, Ph.D., OCS, FAAOMPT
, of Evidence in Motion in Fort Collins, Colorado, believes strongly in the efficacy of trigger point dry needling to treat deep, chronic muscle pain and stiffness; however, he cautions that “the mechanism behind dry needling—precisely why it works, when it does—is as yet unclear.” Denver wellness centers may use this technique to treat cervicogenic headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, lateral epicondylitis, and plantar fascitis. Additional research is needed to support the growing body of anecdotal evidence of its efficacy.
Most practitioners, h
ave “witnessed grand results, but make no grand claims.” The simple technique, he adds is very effective in the hands of a trained physical therapist. He discounts the hype surrounding it, but acknowledge that trigger point dry needling remains controversial. The practice is not permitted in all states and some insurance carriers will not cover such treatment. Dry needling is permitted in Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, District of Columbia, Arizona, Georgia, and Utah.
Those suffering deep, chronic muscle pain may wish to discuss the option of trigger point dry needling. Cherry Creek Wellness Center
uses this technique to relieve headaches, neck pain, low back pain, sore muscles, jaw pain, and tight muscles. With five locations in the greater Denver area, we’re convenient for you. Call us at (303) 333-3493
to schedule an appointment.