Athletes Turn To Dry Needling To Relieve Muscle Pain

Published on: 2021/03/01


Athletes know there’s nothing more frustrating than being sidelined by injury. Yet injuries are a reality of playing sports. Statistics show 90% of student-athletes have reported some sort of sport-related injury. For athletes dealing with muscle injuries or pain, Myofascial Trigger Point Dry Needling can offer relief.

injured soccer player laying on the ground clutching knee At Comprehensive Rehab, dry needling is used either on its own or to complement other physical therapy treatments. Dry needling is an effective treatment for pain and can offer faster recovery.

What is dry needling?

During a dry needling treatment, a trained physical therapist will insert thin monofilament needles into the skin to treat underlying muscular trigger points. 

What are trigger points?

According to Mayo Clinic Health System, “a trigger point is a local contracture or tight band in a muscle fiber that can disrupt function, restrict range of motion, refer pain or cause local tenderness.”

Trigger point in muscle fiber can be imagined as a bowl of spaghetti, with the fibers jumbled and piled like noodles. When dry needling is applied to a trigger point, it helps bring order to the jumble of “noodles” by drawing white blood cells and plasma cells to the area to help begin the healing process. 

What happens during a dry needling session?

During a dry needling session, a physical therapy’s scientific understanding of the neuro-anatomy of the body will be used to identify trigger points, which have sometimes been described as feeling like “marbles” or “pinheads” beneath the skin.

Once a trigger point has been identified and the dry needle inserted, the therapist will manipulate the needle until a “twitch” muscle response occurs. 

This stimulation of the trigger points is an effective treatment for pain and can jumpstart an athlete’s recovery process.

Is it painful?

Because the process uses needles, many patients are concerned the procedure will hurt. However Comprehensive Rehab dry needling patients say the process isn’t painful. Instead, they describe it as “a different sensation.”

Patient Client Williams said, “You kind of cringe at first when you think of needles, but the process doesn’t hurt. It’s just a weird feeling.”

Because dry needling targets the muscles and aims for “twitch” response, patients say their muscles do “get a workout” during the session.

“There are times when you’ll be pretty worn out after a session. It’s like you went to the gym for hours,” said Williams.

How can it help athletes?

Dry needling can be administered throughout most of the body, including the head and shoulders, and can target muscle and ligament strains and pulls including those developed in active sports (such as football, basketball, soccer and wrestling) and injuries from repetitive sports (such as golf, tennis or bowling). 

Dry needling does not involve medication and complements other physical therapy treatments. Sessions are short - 20 or 30 minutes - and minimally invasive. 

Exercise science researchers from Winthrop University studied dry needling for performance and recovery in NCAA Division I athletes and their research, published in The Sport Journal, found that “Athletes who experienced dry needling reported that dry needling was effective and comfortable for efficient and speedy recovery. They also reported that they would recommend others to use this recovery treatment.”

Comprehensive Rehab offers dry needling expertise

Physical therapists at Comprehensive Rehab use dry needling to help athletes at all levels recover from injury or help manage pain.

To learn more about dry needling, contact Comprehensive Rehab.