Running, cycling, lifting weights and gymnastics, every kind of workout causes some amount of fatigue in the muscles. Amateur runners, as well as track athletes, face pain, stiffness of muscles, and weakness at least once in their career. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts can find their abilities plateauing off due to physiological limitations. If you have been into sports and exercises, you must have felt it too. The stiffness of the shoulder muscles or calves after a particularly stressful day at training. Many of us ignore these pains and push through since these discomforts often disappear without special treatment or attention. However, for professional athletes, such pains and stiffness can pose a significant threat to their performances on the tracks.

What is of the most effective, non-intrusive methods to manage pain?

Apart from taking painkillers, using hot and cold compressions, and taking soft tissue massages, there are a few other effective techniques researchers recommend for such situations. One such technique to improve endurance is trigger point dry needling. Dry needling aka intramuscular stimulation (IMS) uses thin, solid, steel needles. The same kind acupuncturists use to treat their clients. In the dry needling technique, the therapist targets the trigger points or the knots of muscles responsible for the tightness in your body. They stimulate these knots and surrounding areas directly using the solid steel needles.

Acupuncture vs. dry needling: What’s the difference?

You may have already heard about acupuncture, and at this point, you are possibly wondering if dry needling and acupuncture are the same. In fact, if you see photos of the two methods, you might find it impossible to tell the difference between them. Apart from the dry steel needles, there are no similarities in the two procedures.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese technique that addresses issues of pain. Traditional Chinese texts document it as the process of balancing the life force (chi), by inserting these needles along the several pathways of the body. Acupuncture finds its uses in several other fields other than pain management.

Dry needling exclusively treats the different types of pains. It has developed in the last couple of decades. It stimulates the trigger points exclusively to loosen up the irritated or knotted muscles. The research on IMS is recent, and it pertains to pain management only. There are only a few physical therapy experts in Sterling, who provide authentic dry needling therapy for professional pain management.

Why is it popular as dry needling?

The process is popular as dry needling because it uses solid and thin needles, in place of the hypodermic ones doctors use to push vaccines. The filiform needles do not inject any fluid into the body. The practitioners claim that the process releases the knots and relieves the muscle spasms. During each session, these filiform needles stay in your skin for 10-20 minutes, depending on the necessary intensity.

What are the different forms of dry needling techniques for pain management?

Pistoning and sparrow pecking

The form of dry needling technique at the Center for Pain Management and Physical Therapy in Sterling, VA use the pistoning technique. Sparrow pecking is a similar technique that relies on in-and-out insertion methods. During sparrow pecking and pistoning techniques, the therapists insert the needle only for a short duration.

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The sparrow peck or pistoning techniques are forms of IMS, where the insertion of the needle into the taut band triggers a twitch response. It is similar to the localized knee-jerk mechanisms we experience. Except, here, the response is under control, and the person undergoing the therapy experiences an immediate release of muscular tension and pressure. Research evidence suggests that the local twitch response has measurable therapeutic value. It can reduce inflammation and alleviate the pain around the trigger point.

Non-trigger point technique

Other dry needling techniques you can experience here include the non-trigger point technique. This method treats a broader topology of the CNS. Since it does not focus on the muscle knots exclusively, it is the non-trigger point technique. The expert inserts the small steel needles around the areas of pain, instead of the specific knots.

The non-trigger point technique is a part of the superficial dry needling. As the name suggests, this method involves the insertion of the filiform needles on the surface and not in the muscles. Research shows that inserting these short, steel needles into the tissue obliquely, can trigger multiple analgesic mechanisms via the standard reflex route (the brain and the spinal cord).

Dry needling and electric stimulation

Another popular form of dry needling involves the insertion of at least two needles and their stimulation by a light TENS current. The introduction is usually at the trigger points or taut band. The stimulation with the TENS currents causes multiple localized twitch responses in the area, resulting in the immediate release of the stiffness or soreness of the muscles involved.

What are the five benefitsof dry needling you must know before going for your first session?

Going for a dry needling session is like hitting the reset button for your sore muscles. Apart from the expected localized relief, this process has several benefits. Here are five most important things about dry needling you need to know –

  1. Improvement of blood flow

When your muscles are sore, they might be blocking optimal blood flow to the surrounding area. That has been the case with several athletes in Sterling over the last few years. A case of stubborn swelling can reduce the blood flow that carries the anti-inflammatory agents into the area. Inserting needles to decrease the swelling, immediately releases the dampened blood flow and restores the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response. It is easy to see why experts recommend dry needling for severe swelling from sports-related fatigue.

  1. A decrease in pain and stimulation of the release of neurotransmitters

Dry needling techniques like the superficial stimulation trigger the pain-suppressing mechanism of the body. It stimulates the system to release enkephalins, beta-endorphins, and dynorphins. They suppress the sensation of pain since they are all powerful but natural analgesics. These are small peptides (non-complex protein molecules) that act on the spinal cord and the brain to provide remission from inflammation and pain.

  1. Treatment of chronic pain
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So far we have only mentioned acute pain, but chronic pain including plantar fasciitis, sciatica and tennis elbow is treatable using dry needling techniques. More people in Sterling are including IMS as a part of their regular pain management plan to address chronic pain problems that even include arthritis and neuritis.

  1. Improvement of movement and mobility range

How many times in the recent times, have you tried to lift your hand but cried out in pain? Several gym goers, fitness experts, and athletes have faced similar predicaments in the past. However, only a few of them have known about this fast and effective pain management technique. Patients undergoing dry needling report improvement of movement, gait, and an increase in the range of mobility after a couple of sessions. The increase in blood flow and release of endorphins also contribute to these improvements.

  1. Provides ultimate relaxation

If you have taken vaccines recently, you might have a tough time correlating needles and relaxation. However, that is precisely what these fine, sterile steel needles provide to the patients. An experienced and trained professional can recognize the trigger points effectively and release the pressure. It helps open the knots and restore the muscles to their correct length. Although the mechanism of the dry needling action is somewhat of a mystery, scientific investigations show the corresponding release of neurotransmitters and pain-suppressing peptides that relieve and “reset” the muscle fibers back to normal.

What should you remember before booking your dry needling session?

Dry needling is not dangerous, but it requires trained hands for maximum effectiveness. If the therapist has no understanding of a person’s physiology or related pain, he or she will not be able to provide sufficient relief either. It is a safe treatment that demands the knowledge of tissues, nervous systems, and experience of pain management. In sterling, there are only a few registered places that have dry needling therapy experts. Although complications during dry needling are rare, a client can altogether avoid them by ensuring that the therapist sticks to the safety guidelines.

One of the most important things you must ensure before your session is that the therapist only uses fresh, disposable needles for the therapy. Hygiene is of utmost importance during these sessions for the maximum comfort and minimum contraindications. The only side-effects you can expect are –

  1. Redness and small marks from the needle insertion
  2. Little bleeding from the local areas of needling
  3. Temporary swelling or sensitivity in the same are

The use of sterile needles is imperative for your safety. Non-sterile needles can cause skin infections, localized infections, and blood-borne diseases.

In sterling, you might find it challenging to locate an expert who provides all kinds of dry needling therapies. You should try to look for wholesome fitness and pain management services that offer dry needling. Check their history of service, customer responses and the credentials of the experts before booking your experience. The quality of service always influences the quality of relaxation you will get after your sessions.