If you've struggled with muscle pain in your neck, shoulders, or upper back that just doesn't seem to go away, you may be wondering about your options. Often, this type of pain can be the result of years or even decades of poor posture, tough manual labor, or other trauma that can create "contraction knots" in your muscle tissue. Deep tissue massages alone might not be enough to relieve this pain, and the lack of any orthopedic issues means that surgery or other invasive treatments often aren't the best option.
For some back pain sufferers, a relatively new technique known as "dry needling" may be able to provide some relief. Read on to learn more about dry needling to see whether this may be an option to provide you help with back pain.
What Is Dry Needling?
This procedure is somewhat similar to acupuncture in that it involves the placement of multiple thin, hollow needles in various places on your body. But unlike acupuncture, which relies on trigger points that often aren't anywhere near the area causing pain, dry needling focuses on the problem-causing muscle directly. Although the thought of needles being inserted into your body can be a frightening one, when performed by an experienced physical therapist, this procedure is relatively painless.
How Can Dry Needling Treat Back Pain?
The insertion point, called a myofascial trigger point (MTP), will begin twitching in response to the needle. This does two things: contracts the muscle fibers and helps release the body's natural opioids, reducing pain. Often, the combination of muscle stimulation and the release of pain-dampening hormones can be enough to reduce your pain for a few minutes, hours, or even days.
Should This Be Combined With Other Treatment Methods?
Dry needling alone may not be enough to treat serious contraction knots. But combining this technique with deep tissue massage to "break up" the knots, as well as exercises designed to strengthen the surrounding muscles and provide the area with some extra support and protection, can be a viable treatment option. Because some physical therapy providers perform both massage and dry needling, you may be able to find a "one stop shop" for all your needs. Your doctor may also prescribe or recommend an anti-inflammatory medication like naproxen to reduce pain while you're going through the treatment program.
Keep in mind that it often takes these contraction knots years to develop, so a long-term treatment plan that utilizes deep-tissue massage, physical therapy exercises, and dry needling can, over time, lead to significant improvement.