As runners, it can be frustrating to experience persistent pain that doesn't respond to traditional therapies. Thankfully, sports medicine is continually evolving, and more diagnostic, and treatment options become available to help heal and keep us healthy. One such treatment that has gained popularity in recent years is dry needling.
In this article, we'll discuss what dry needling is, what it treats, its effectiveness, potential costs, and more.
What is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is a minimally invasive therapy that involves the insertion of thin (acupuncture-like) needles into tense bands of muscle to reach problematic areas of deep tissue. The needles help relax these bands and release the neurochemicals causing pain, causing muscles to relax, blood flow to increase, and the body's natural healing process to activate. The muscle quickly contracts and functions normally whenever the trigger point is released.
What Does Dry Needling Treat?
Dry needling is commonly used to treat runners with lower back pain, hip pain, knee pain, shin splints, and plantar fasciitis. The therapy can go deeper than deep-tissue massage work and only takes a session or two to help the muscle relax.
How Effective is Dry Needling?
A growing body of published evidence shows the benefits of dry needling for soft-tissue injuries. Mirinda Carfrae, a three-time Ironman world champion, uses the therapy when she is deep in exercise. While deep-tissue massage relieves most of her issues, occasionally, she'll have a "super tight muscle" that won't relax. For these matters, she turns to dry needling, which "may go deeper and only takes a session or two to allow the muscle to relax."
See also: An Overview of Trigger Point Dry Needling.
Can Dry Needling Hurt?
The needles that will be used are fine, so there is minimal pain upon entry. The needles stay in the trigger point for up to 15 minutes or are inserted and pulled from the area several times. Once the needles puncture the trigger point, you can anticipate a dull pain, similar to someone pushing on a bruise, depending on the location. You may experience soreness for a day or two following the treatment, but it is usually not excruciating. However, the calves may be sorer than other areas for a few days after needling.
Who Offers Dry Needling?
Physical therapists in nearly every state now use dry needling, but few use ultrasound to guide the needle. A unique certification is required for therapists to use ultrasound.
What Are The Costs of Dry Needling?
Some insurance companies don't cover dry needling, and it may be employed as part of an overall consultation but cannot be billed separately. As a stand-alone treatment without a prescription for PT, the cost can range from $65 to $120.
Runners may require anywhere from two to seven sessions over a few weeks. If the issue doesn't improve after multiple treatments, something other than a soft-tissue issue, like a stress fracture, may be causing the problem.
If you're experiencing persistent pain that has not responded to traditional therapies, it may be worth considering dry needling as a treatment option. Although dry needling is a relatively new therapy, it has shown promising results for runners experiencing common running pain that has not responded to traditional therapies. It is a minimally invasive therapy that can help release trigger points and improve muscle function, helping runners get back to doing what they love.
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