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In Good Health: Dry Needling

Dealing with any kind of pain can have a big impact on your day to day life.

If you’re looking for a way to treat your pain without medication, dry needling could be the answer for you.

Whitney Amann explains the treatment McLaren Northern Michigan offers for this In Good Health.

“Dry needling can really work on chronic progressive types of pain or it can work on more acute pain,” said Dr. Trevor Nelson, DPT, PT.

The name may sound intimidating but dry needling could be the fix you’re looking for.

“Dry needling is the use of a small, thin needle inserted into the muscle into the tender point, trigger point of a muscle and is for the purpose of releasing that area, has kind of a local effect and that’s on the muscle itself,” said Dr. Nelson. “And then it can have more of a system wide effect on the muscle and the nerves surrounding that tissue.”

There’s some similarities to acupuncture, like the type of needle used.

“Acupuncture works more on energy fields and in eastern understanding, whereas dry needling is done either by a physical therapist, chiropractor, physician’s assistant with more of a western medicine background and it’s based on muscle trigger point,” said Dr. Nelson.

Some of the more common areas for this treatment are your neck and shoulders.

“It can also be used on the low back and low back pain, it can also be used on plantar fasciitis but really anywhere where there’s muscle pain or areas of tensed tissues.”

If the word needle itself has you hesitant…

“What I would say is it’s a different needle than the one your doctor would use for medications,” he said. “Dry needling implies that there’s not a wet or medication in the needle. It’s a very thin small needle and it does have a tap or a poke feel when it goes in however, there’s not really that same feeling. It feels more like a massage or feels more like a just a gentle stimulus to the area.”

But how can a needle this small, have such a big impact on your body?

“As the needles inserted, it causes a change in the tension of the muscle so it leads to increased muscle blood flow of the muscle and it allows for an increase in circulation, helps push out some of the local inflammatory cells and actually helps increase the calming effects when the nerve in the area.”

Doctors say dry needling works best when paired with other treatments.

“With more acute conditions, we do find there is kind of an instant effect, however, for maintaining those benefits, we really recommend that patients come to see us and we do a full evaluation,” he said.”

Working on not just the pain itself but what caused it.

“We really find and the research really backs up that dry needling is a part of a whole plan, meaning when paired with exercise, when paired with massage education, for posture education, for best workplace practices, home practices and how you’re lifting, bending, moving, that’s when it’s really the most functional and the benefits are able to be maintained.”

A newer technique in northern Michigan, with benefits to help you through the years.

“I think it’s just part of what we can offer in getting people off of the medications, maybe that they’ve been on for longer or some of the other more aggressive treatments in terms of surgeries and that our goal is to really help people get back to function and get back to life.”

Mclaren does offer free screenings.

You can also call your doctor to see if dry needling is the right fit for you and decide the best treatment plan.

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