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New drug-free pain treatment method offered

By Staff | Oct 24, 2016

Pivot Physical Therapy is offering a new treatment, called “dry needling” to provide pain relief to those suffering with chronic pain issues, sports injuries and general muscular discomfort.

Matt Taylor, physical therapist and clinic director at Pivot recently completed certification to administer the dry needling technique to his patients.

The practice is called dry needling because there is no medication injected. The needles are a very thin, solid, fine point needle inserted to release muscular restrictions in highly localized areas. They are similar to, and in some cases, the same as acupuncture needles.

Taylor explained that sometimes a person experiences pain caused by small areas in a muscle group that are very tight. These spots are called trigger points and can feel quite tender when pressure is applied. The presence of a trigger point can not only cause pain elsewhere in the body, but also limit muscle function and decrease range of motion. When a needle is inserted or “tapped” into that trigger point, it creates a micro-trauma to the muscle which allows fresh blood flow and new healing factors like oxygen and proteins get into the muscle to help it heal.

Taylor uses detective work of sorts to find the source of pain or discomfort a person is having. He may test mobility and range of motion with various exercises, in addition to feeling for trigger points before both he and the patient decide on a course of treatment.

“We use our hands to feel for restrictions of the muscles,” said Taylor. “If we press on an area that recreates the pain you are feeling-or intensifies it-we have what is called an ‘active’ trigger point. Then with the patient’s permission, we use the needle to piston into the muscle tissue. We will get ‘twitch’ responses. The muscle actually twitches and when it stops, we’re done.”

“You either have these little nodules restricting blood flow,” Taylor continued, “or they could be little micro-spasms, either way the blood flow leading up to that point in the muscle is normal then it hits that tight spot. You have a much more acidic intramuscular PH there, lower levels of oxygen saturation and the blood flow is reduced. That little spot is what causes pain and if left untreated long enough, it can radiate out. For example, there are points in the upper trapezius (muscle that extends over the back of the neck and shoulders) where if someone has an active trigger point, they could feel pain up the back of the neck to the base of the skull and might feel it around the skull to behind the eye. After you needle it, that’s (pain) reduced.”

Dry needling is beneficial for things like plantar fascitis, migraines, fibromyalgia, disc and nerve problems and many more. It is an alternative treatment for people who have chronic pain and don’t want to take certain pain medications, namely opioids, but it can not be administered to areas where there are implants, active infection or to an area that has undergone surgery within the previous 6-8 weeks.

Minimal pain or discomfort is associated with the dry needling process, but there can be some muscle soreness akin to the same type of irritation one might feel after vigorous use of muscles. However, the soreness rarely lasts more than 24 hours, and can be combated with movement and ice if needed.

Another new treatment offered by Taylor and Pivot in Shepherdstown is aquatic therapy at the Shepherd University Wellness Center. Taylor says this is especially helpful for post-surgery rehab when patients are instructed to only bear a certain amount of weight on an area. Many other physical ailments benefit from aquatic therapy as well.

“Dry needling is just one of the tools in the tool box,” said Chris Horowicz, Regional President of Pivot. “We are great practitioners of looking at function and movement analysis, judging by impairments and doing an initial evaluation to decide all the things that are wrong. That way we can direct a patient to a course of action that would be most beneficial, whether it be dry needling, aquatic therapy, or any other physical therapy work we do here. Our goal is to make you whole again so that you feel better.”

Pivot is located at 39 Maddex Drive, Suite 2 in Shepherdstown and offers morning and evening appointments to accommodate various needs. To find out more about the treatments offered or to schedule an appointment, call 304-876-8600.