Needles, Needles, Needles…

Working in a physical therapy clinic has educated me about chronic pain more than I imagined.  I’ve learned about, and been able to try treatments I never knew even existed for chronic pain.  Most recent of these treatments?

Functional dry needling…

Here is a brief description of the process and purpose of this treatment, from

Dry Needling is a general term for a therapeutic treatment procedure that involves multiple advances of a filament needle into the muscle in the area of the body which produces pain and typically contains a trigger point. There is no injectable solution and typically the needle that is used is very thin. Most patients will not even feel the needle penetrate the skin, but once it advances into the muscle, the discomfort can vary from patient to patient. Usually a healthy muscle feels very little discomfort upon insertion of the needle; however, if the muscle is sensitive and shortened or contains active trigger points, the subject may feel a sensation much like a muscle cramp, often referred to as a ‘twitch response”.

The twitch response also has a biochemical characteristic to it which likely affects the reaction of the muscle, symptoms and response of the tissue. Along with the health of the tissue, the expertise of the practitioner can also attribute to the variation of discomfort and outcome. The patient may only feel the cramping sensation locally or they may feel a referral of pain or similar symptoms for which they are seeking treatment. A reproduction of their pain can be a helpful diagnostic indicator of the cause of the symptoms. Patients soon learn to recognize and even welcome this sensation, as it results in deactivating the trigger point, reducing pain and restoring normal length and function of the involved muscle. Typically, positive results are apparent within 2-4 treatment sessions but can vary depending on the cause and duration of the symptoms, overall health of the patient, and experience level of the practitioner.

Dry needling is an effective treatment for acute and chronic pain, rehabilitation from injury, and even pain and injury prevention, with very few side effects. This technique is unequaled in finding and eliminating neuromuscular dysfunction that leads to pain and functional deficits.”

Sound scary?  I agree!

Before I would even attempt this, I watched one of my co-workers go through the treatment.  I knew since I would more than likely be getting it done on my back or neck and wouldn’t be able to see, I wanted to see what was actually going on first to try to calm my nerves.  In hindsight, I should have just gone into it blind.

My co-worker was getting a place on his arm treated.  Basically it looks like this…

Gloves on…

Alcohol on…

Needle in…

Dig around with needle…

Dig around…

Watch my co-worker wiggle and flinch…

Electrical stimulation added to the needle to make it vibrate while it’s still in…

Co-worker says it feels good…

Needle out…


Of course, there is WAY more expertise, detail and navigation of the human anatomy that went into the treatment, but as far as what you can “see” that was pretty much it.

I was still nervous but did it anyway.  The PT started by giving me a background in dry needling and made sure to mention that, although the needles are the same as acupuncture, the treatment, evaluation and goals are all very different from acupuncture treatment.   She also stated I may be sore, like a deep ache, after the treatment.  I was only sore for an hour or so, and luckily had no soreness the next day.

I had built what I thought it would feel like in my head to the point where I actually got nervous enough for the PT to tell me to stop and breathe.

All in all…it really wasn’t that bad.  I got my shoulders and neck done (my trigger points).  Looking back on it, the intense ache I got during the treatment didn’t feel any worse than a flare, like during a strong weather change…and it only lasted a second or two.

Now to the most important part….

Did it work?

I was pain free in the treatment spots for almost one full week after only one treatment.  These are the spots where I have daily, nagging, never goes away, pain.  I just felt…normal.  I was able to turn my head in the car easier and didn’t feel my neck “stick” while reaching like I usually do.

I was extremely happy with the results and YES, I will do it again.

Our next attempt?  My sore hips from the psoriatic.

Next needle on my agenda?  Getting rid of the methotrexate!  My Rheumatologist Ok’d the switch from Methotrexate to a biologic because of the side effects I was having.  I am SO excited to have my Sunday’s back…and some of my hair back for that matter.

New needle to try?  Humira injections.

After weeks of working through to get my co-pay lowered ($8,000 a month without insurance, $100 copay with, and now $5 with copay assistance, thank goodness) the injection pens are sitting in my fridge waiting to be used.

Because of the potential side effects (nothing like methotrexate from what I’ve heard) I am choosing to wait until after the holidays to start the injections.  I don’t want to miss out on any of the holiday events, or have a possible bad reaction, etc.

While this is great, it’s also a double edged sword.  I’m swollen, sore and crack and pop every time I move.  Once the methotrexate started to leave my system, this all came pouring back unfortunately.

I have high hopes for Humira, as it seems to have helped quite a few psoriatic arthritis patients based off the reviews and the posts in my support group.

As usual…

Only time will tell.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nicole
    Dec 19, 2014 @ 22:55:13

    You did dry needling such justice!!! We need to get you on a regiment:)


  2. Trackback: Time Is Not Measured By Clocks But By Moments… | myfibrostory

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