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Dry needling: A New Way to Manage Pain Without Drugs

Nov 19, 2018 02:58PM ● By Alyssa McGinnis

Musculoskeletal pain affects many people worldwide. According to the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, it’s estimated that upwards of 10% of the population is dealing with skeletal muscle pain. With a recent push to lower the number of opioids that are prescribed in the U.S., many patients may be wondering what they can do for this type of chronic pain besides taking prescription medications, or even over-the-counter ones. Dry needling, as part of a comprehensive physical therapy treatment plan, could be an answer to some looking to reduce musculoskeletal pain and improve movement.

Dry needling is a skilled technique performed by a physical therapist using thin needles inserted into the skin and underlying tissues to affect change in neuromuscular conditions. The needles are without any medications or injections, and it allows a physical therapist to target tissues they may not otherwise be able to manipulate.  According to the American Physical Therapy Association, this technique can help accelerate a patient’s return to active rehabilitation.

With the use of thin needles inserted into the skin, it’s easy to see how people may view acupuncture and dry needling as basically the same, but there are quite a few important differences.

“This may sound similar to acupuncture, but the only similarity are the needles used,” said Paul Bindert, PT, DPT, ATC, physical therapist at Madison Regional Health System, who’s certified in dry needling. “Dry needling has a different approach that focuses on treatment towards the affected area, such as a muscle. Acupuncture treats the patient holistically addressing their energy, life force and pain by inserting needles in a body region that is not directly over the area of discomfort. It should also be noted that dry needling is not done in isolation, but as part of an overall treatment plan for the patient.”

This therapy is also relatively new to the state of South Dakota. Physical therapists were recently approved to perform dry needling as part of a patient’s treatment plan through signed legislation by South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard in March 2018. Physical therapists must complete a course of study approved by the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners in order to practice dry needling in the state. South Dakota now joins more than 40 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing physical therapist to practice dry needling.

If you think you may benefit from dry needling as part of physical therapy treatment, talk with your provider or physical therapist. For more information, you can also call Madison Regional Health System’s therapy department at 605-256-6551.