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How Does Dry Needling Help Your Shoulder Pain?

Get Back to Training, Lifting, Your Weekend Hobby or Simply Your Daily Active Lifestyle without Shoulder Pain - Dry Needling is here to help!

Dry Needling is one of multiple manual treatments and modalities that is strongly suggested in the literature when addressing shoulder pain (rotator cuff tear, shoulder impingement, labral tear, bicipital tendonitis, and so on).

A benefit of Dry Needling is its ability to remodel musculoskeletal tissues. Dry needling helps reduce muscle knots, re-align the collagen fibers that make up connective tissue, and increases the size and length of muscles and connective tissues. It can help reduce painful trigger points in the neck, upper back, and shoulders within a matter of seconds to minutes.

The needles may help break up residual scar tissue and allow the body to replenish the area with new, healthy cells. Additionally, it helps promote blood flow in the affected region. Blood flow is crucial for healing due to many of the body’s nourishing, healing factors are transported by the blood. It is common to have injuries to the rotator cuff tendons, biceps tendon, labrum, or joint capsule, however these connective tissues naturally have poor blood flow. Incorporating dry needling can be really helpful step in healing these common shoulder conditions we see in the clinic.

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What is Dry Needling?

Dry Needling is a treatment commonly used in physical therapy that is very similar to acupuncture. It inserts a small needle into the skin, connective tissues, and muscles of the body to ultimately help reduce pain, inflammation, and increase blood flow. Dry needling can be performed in a variety of different ways: by inserting the needle and leaving it in the muscle belly or tendon, by twisting the needle in small circles, moving the needle up and down, or attaching an electrical stimulation unit to several of the needles.

What Conditions Do You Treat with Dry Needling?

Most of the common conditions we treat in physical therapy can benefit from the use of dry needling as a treatment. We have treated patients suffering from cervicogenic headaches, temporomandibular joint pain, rotator cuff tears, neck pain, labral tears, tendonitis, shoulder impingement, tennis elbow, and many other conditions and have found great outcomes from utilizing dry needling techniques as part of their treatment plans.

How Does Dry Needling Work to Reduce Pain and Inflammation?

Dry needling naturally has an anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effect on the body by activating a variety of different metabolic pathways in the body and helps with tissue remodeling and increases blood flow to the affected tissue.

Similar to Ibuprofen or other types of NSAID medications, dry needling has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. When the needle is inserted into the body, it helps to inhibit inflammatory compounds, known as cytokines, in the brain, spinal cord, and in peripheral nerves. When inflammation goes down, pain levels reduce, range of motion and strength increase, and overall healing in the injured tissue is free to occur.

To relieve pain in the body, this treatment stimulates the opioid system, sympathetic nervous system, and other pain-relieving mechanisms in the brain. Opioids are a naturally produced substance in the body that help regulate pain. Stimulating this process through a safe technique, such as dry needling, allows for patients to receive a small, safe, analgesic effect through stimulating the body’s natural pain mechanisms without the risk of highly addictive medications. Some studies have found that it is possible that dry needling alone may be used to decrease the use of opioid medications for pain relief.

Is It Safe?

Absolutely! At RTS Physiotherapy, each of our Doctors of Physical Therapy have taken advanced coursework to become certified in Dry Needling the body from head to toe! We take the proper precautions for dry needling: wearing gloves, using single-use, pre-sterilized, disposable needles, working on clean skin, and demonstrating the expertise to execute this treatment in a safe, effective way.

What Should I Expect During and After My First Dry Needling Treatment?

The needle may stimulate a little pain, a muscle twitch response, or some referred pain to a different part of the body than the needle is physically in. For example, some may feel pain in the front of their shoulder or lower down in their arm, as their therapist is needling a rotator cuff muscle in the back of their shoulder. Some people may feel very relaxed, tired, or fatigued after a dry needling treatment session. Many patients feel soreness during and/or after getting dry needled for approximately 24-48 hours after the treatment session, then typically feel a reduction in pain afterwards.

Dr. Laura J. Marshall DPT, LAT, ATC

Return to Sport Physiotherapy

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