John Richter's Thoughts on Dry Needling

This week on theScoop John Richter shares his insights on SportsPlus' latest treatment technique:

Dry needling. Sounds painful. Does it work? Here’s theScoop. Reading through the pre-course material while flying to Denver (let’s be honest, more prep than I usually do for a CEU course) I was skeptical. I had seen pictures of James Harrison and other professional athletes imitating a porcupine as means for recovery and injury prevention, but otherwise had limited exposure to dry needling myself. Rewind 6 years to a lab room in Mesa, AZ; my second year in graduate school was my first exposure to dry needling. My professor brought in a local clinician who utilized dry needling in her practice and he graciously volunteered to be her pincushion. I remember leaving lab that day thinking, there is no way you will ever catch me doing that. Fast forward to March 2018, I am on a plane to Denver with 2 other clinicians from SportsPlus for a 3-day dry needling course. For 3 days (27+ hours) we needled the entire body ~ head-to-toe, front-to-back ~ and I left Denver with a new appreciation for the practice of dry needling. Aches and pains in my hip and shoulder were significantly better from the treatment received by my peers and my mind was opened to a different way of approaching the human body. The body has amazing healing potential when put in the right environment and stimulated correctly. As a physical therapist, that is my job. Provide an environment for each individual patient to be successful at whatever it is he/she wants to accomplish ~ reduce pain, walk better, recover after surgery, get back to work, play with their kids/grandkids, improve sports performance, and the list goes on. To be cliché, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. But which is the best? Is dry needling a magical elixir of healing that cures all…don’t be silly, I didn’t drink the entire pitcher of Kool-aid. but, in my limited clinical experience, if used in conjunction with other therapeutic interventions [joint mobilizations, soft tissue mobilizations, active stretching, strengthening, proprioceptive training, etc.], I have found it to facilitate faster healing time by reducing swelling, reducing neuromuscular spasm, decreasing pain levels, and improving pain free range of motion proving overall to be a very beneficial treatment strategy for patients. Dry needling is relatively pain-free which is one of the main concerns I had prior to having it performed on me and a concern that most patients express when it is first mentioned to him/her. I am excited to explore the benefits of dry needling through use with patients and also on myself as I continue to build my clinical knowledge. My skepticism has been removed and I will continue to use dry needling in my practice. So, what’s dry needling? Does it work? That’s theScoop. 

- John Richter DPT, ATC


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