Author: Matthew Le, AP
Over-the-counter treatments are also commonly used for pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen sodium are often used to mitigate mild to moderate pain, but these are only intended for short-term use. Non-aspirin NSAIDs can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, while all NSAIDs including aspirin can increase the risk of bleeding. Some side effects may include stomach pain, nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, and headaches. Many patients report that medications work well initially but with regular use the pain can become intractable and the medication fails to provide significant relief.
How Dry Needling and Myofascial Therapies Can Help
Dry Needling is the insertion of fine, sterile needles into soft tissue in order to decrease pain, improve blood flow, encourage tissue repair, and resolve inflammation. Trigger points in muscle tissue have been found to contribute to musculoskeletal pain. By deactivating these trigger points, it may be possible to restore normal muscle function and reduce pain.
Myofascial trigger points are also referred to as “knots” in muscle tissue. These trigger points can cause referred or local pain when palpated. They typically form after prolonged muscle tension or injury. Within a trigger point, there is a distinct lack of blood flow and oxygenation which can cause a decrease in pH. This low pH can excite nociceptors (pain receptors) in muscle tissue, which can cause pain and muscle spasms.1 By inserting needles directly into these trigger points, oxygenated blood is introduced into the area and microtrauma from the needle stimulates a mild inflammatory response that will elicit repair.
Dry Needling also works with the nervous system to release pain-relieving hormones and block pain signals. Endorphins are released during acupuncture, which can contribute to mood elevation and pain relief by activating the body’s opiate receptors. Evidence suggests that acupuncture also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to relax the body and reduce stress hormones such as cortisol.
Myofascial Therapies such as Cupping, Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM), and Massage all help to encourage blood flow and healing while restoring proper function to myofascial tissue. To various degrees, these therapies break down fibrotic and dysfunctional tissue, which stimulates a rebuild and repair response from the body. For those with old injuries or chronic pain, these therapies can help to renew the tissues and resolve long-term inflammation.