Monday, Feb. 15, 2016


Treatment option could relieve muscle pain

Treatment option could relieve muscle pain

Johanna Lough, physical therapist at Willis-Knighton Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center, is just one of many practitioners embracing the functional dry needling treatment for their patients.

Functional dry needling is a treatment technique that uses thin, solid filament needles to deactivate and desensitize trigger points and overactivity in muscles.

“A myofascial trigger point is a shortened knotted muscle that can contribute to pain, decreased flexibility and decreased muscle function,” Lough said.

“The needle is inserted into the muscle. Then, when it comes in contact with the area of dysfunction, it causes a cramping sensation, and then the needle is manipulated until that sensation lessens.”

Typically, the needles that are used are very thin, so the patients don’t usually feel the needle penetrating the skin. However, once the needle proceeds ahead into the muscle, the discomfort level varies. It may be more intense for some patients than others.

Healthy muscles will feel less discomfort than sensitive or shortened muscles, which contain trigger points.

This “twitch response” is similar to that of a muscle cramp.

This response of the muscle, while sometimes uncomfortable, is actually a good, helpful response, in that it helps pinpoint other areas of pain in the body.

This allows the practitioner to accurately diagnose other contributing health issues.

The muscle’s “twitch response” essentially leads to deactivating trigger points, lessening overall pain and restoring healthy muscle function for patients.

Lough, who has worked at the Willis-Knighton Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center since it opened in September of 2005, said she loves her job.

“My favorite part of my job is having a patient come in with significant pain and dysfunction, and be able to use this technique to improve their symptoms so they can leave happier than when they came in,” Lough said.

Lough took initial advanced training in functional dry needling in March 2012, and then attended additional courses in 2013 and 2015.

Functional dry needling is a very unique treatment option but is increasing lately in popularity. “Functional dry needling is a highly effective treatment technique to resolve muscle dysfunction, especially in deep muscles that are difficult to palpate with your hand,” Lough said. “The technique helps the muscle relax, release or ‘let go,’ allowing the patient to move easier and with less pain.”

Functional dry needling is a possible option for those with any myriad issues and can offer many health benefits when done properly.

“Dry needling can be used for acute and chronic pain, rehabilitation from injury, pain and injury prevention,” Lough said.

One should always make sure they are under the care of a licensed practitioner when receiving this medical treatment. While complications from functional dry needling treatment are rare, and while the method isn’t high risk, there are some risks involved that should be considered before opting for the treatment.

“Risks include accidental puncture of the lung, blood vessel, bruising, infection and nerve injury,” Lough said.

“Since bruising is common, patients need to inform their therapist if they are using any anticoagulants. The main side effect is soreness.”

Overall, Lough said she is an advocate for functional dry needling method of treatment and has seen success with patients over her years in practice.

“This method is highly effective and efficient,” Lough said. “In particular, muscles that could not be relaxed with stretching and other techniques can be released using this technique.”

– Betsy St. Amant


When it comes to cost and insurance, Johanna Lough advises, as is the case with all physical therapy services, each person’s insurance policy needs to be specifi cally checked for coverage before considering the treatment.

Also from Betsy St. Amant


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