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How Dry Needling Helps With Sports Injuries

A sports medicine physician uses dry needling for sports injuries. Several dry needles are placed around, above, and below a patient's left knee cap.

Sports medicine dry needling is a relatively new treatment based on modern Western medicine that involves inserting thin needles into the body at certain trigger points. During treatment, needles are inserted into trigger points, or tender bands of muscle or tendon. This elicits a response that releases tension and restores normal function. Dry needling is different than traditional acupuncture because it is rather more of an active technique involving multiple fenestrations into an area of the body, it applies Western medicine concepts in anatomy and physiology whereas in acupuncture, needles are usually left in place and it uses more of an Oriental/Traditional understanding of medicine.

Trigger points may provide other therapeutic benefits including:

  • Relieve muscular pain and stiffness
  • Improve flexibility
  • Increase range of motion
  • Improving life quality

Dry needling for sports injuries may also help reduce pain and inflammation, improve blood circulation, reduce anxiety and relieve tight muscles.

What can it be used for?

Dry needling can be used for tendinopathies, muscles strains and chronic pain. Though each treatment is custom tailored to your specific needs, it may be used alongside these common techniques:

  • Channel palpation
    Channel palpation is a hands-on technique that focuses on gathering diagnostic information through careful palpitation of the distal channels (areas of the body apart from but connected to the location of the sports injury). It also helps identify the precise location of the pain or injury, refine trigger point selection and improve clinical results.
  • Soft tissue release
    Sometimes called “pin and stretch,” soft tissue release therapy is a hands-on manual therapy used to restore normal flexibility to a muscle. It is particularly useful when a muscle becomes very tense and shortened from overuse (e.g., weightlifting). As this technique uses precise pressure combined with active or passive stretching along with dry needling, therapists may choose to work around the injury rather than directly on it to lessen discomfort.
  • Cupping
    Cupping is a technique that applies glass or silicone cups to the affected area through suction. From there, the cups are slid across the tight tissue to break up fascial adhesions and allow the muscles to move more freely. Fascial adhesions occur when the fascia (connective tissue) and the underlying muscle tissue get stuck together. When this happens, it can restrict muscle movement and cause pain, soreness and reduced flexibility or range of motion. Randomized clinical trials suggested significant temporary pain reduction when cupping was used on the lower back.
  • Stretching exercises
    After resetting tight or injured muscles with dry needling, stretching exercises are commonly used to help restore their full range of motion. Often, multiple stretches are needed for each area of the body, including both the affected muscles as well as those that move in the opposite direction.

Whether you’re a pro or semi-pro athlete, a college or high-school athlete, or a weekend warrior, the experienced Premier Family Medicine Physicians at Pomona Valley Health Center offer custom-tailored dry needling techniques to help you recover quickly from sprains and strains or other sports-related injuries. In addition to dry needling, our sports medicine practitioners are also skilled in the areas of joint and ultrasound-guided injections, fracture care and casting, physical therapy prescriptions, arthritis management, concussion management, non-operative treatment and general injury assessment. Call 909-378-9143 to schedule an appointment.