In the everyday pain and loss of function that we treat, tight muscles are usually part of the picture. Tight muscles can cause pain in the muscles themselves. They can also cause referred pain - pain that is a result of the tight muscles but felt on a different area of the body. A very common example of referred pain is tight shoulder muscles causing headaches.
So, how do we treat tight muscles? Often times, chiropractic adjustments on their own cause significant muscle relaxation and help to eliminate this component of the patient's pain. Occasionally, however, the muscles are too tight. Even a massage cannot keep them relaxed. That's when we consider the use of dry needling.
Advantages of Dry Needling
There are several advantages to treating tight muscles with dry needling. It is time efficient - usually taking only 5 to 10 minutes. It is well tolerated - the most common side effect is the occasional mild sting that quickly goes away. It is effective - the majority of patients treated at this office feel lasting muscle relaxation and reduced pain.
Dry needling uses acupuncture needles, but unlike acupuncture, the needles are used specifically and only in tight muscles. These needles are very thin and solid. They do not inject medicine or withdraw fluids, hence the term "dry" needling.
Dry Needling Process
So what's the process? First, we determine if the patient can benefit from dry needling. Tight muscles that may be causing the patient's pain are identified by applying pressure to the muscles. If they cause pain, they are ready to be treated.
A needle is placed into the skin over the muscle and left there for about 30 seconds. It is then removed and pressure is again applied to the muscle. The patient typically feels some muscle relaxation and pain reduction (around 50%). If this is the case, it's all that is needed. Otherwise the procedure is performed again.
We usually address all tight muscles in a given region of the body. The process takes 5 to 10 minutes. The patient often feels a sense of relief before leaving the office but sometimes the effects are not felt for up to 24 hours. It takes around 3 visits (typically once a week) to see relief for many patients. If the muscle tightness has been present for many years or is especially severe, the patient may require ongoing care (once every 3-4 weeks) to maintain relief.
Dr. Eric Hayes is certified in dry needling and considers it a major part of his clinical approach here at Limestone Chiropractic. If you are interested in learning more about this treatment, contact our office and set up a consultation. We will address any questions or concerns.