Dry Needling for Lower Back Pain?
I’ve been treating lower back pain patients (among others) with dry needling since 2009, when I was the first in the Air Force to introduce USAF Physical Therapy to the practice after undergoing a year of dry needle training. After treating thousands of military men and women using the dry needle technique and retiring from the Air Force I brought that experience here to Colorado Springs where I began my civilian physical therapy practice. I have found dry needling to be a powerful therapy alongside manual techniques and corrective exercise strategies. It is an important part of a holistic, integrative rehabilitation process. In this article I discuss a bit of background concerning lower back pain and why dry needle therapy is so important for the purposes of relieving muscle tightness, eliminating trigger points, and decreasing pain.
Currently, treatment for lower back pain is extensive and ranges from invasive surgery and general medical practice with oral medications, to behavioral therapy, chiropractic treatments, and passive treatments such as heat, infrared, and massage. Recently, dry needling has become increasingly popular as a non-surgical treatment method for relieving the muscle tension, joint tightness, and pain that leads to functional disability.
A little background. If you have back pain, you have a lot of company. Lower back pain (LBP) is a world-wide health problem and the most common disorder among musculoskeletal disorders, especially in sedentary people and even in highly trained athletes. In 2017, just a few years ago, lower back pain was still in the top 3 medical disorders worldwide. It is estimated that as many as 85% of people in developed countries will experience lower back pain in their lifetime, and is one of the most common reasons for medical visits to physician offices and emergency departments in the United States. LBP can result in significant levels of disability and psychological distress, creating enormous barriers to physical activity, social interaction, and ability to work.
Where does dry needling fit in? In clinical practice, dry needling usually refers to a minimally invasive procedure during which a thin filiform needle (much like an acupuncture needle) is directly inserted into an active myofascial (a fancy word for muscle and the surrounding connective tissue) trigger point. You’ve likely experienced these trigger points before, because they usually show up as tight bands of painful or sore muscle that don’t stretch out easily, come back quickly, and cause more pain and stiffness with increased activity.
Once the needle is inserted into the muscle, many times a “local twitch response” is triggered, which feels like a brief momentary spasm in the muscle, usually followed by significant and immediate relief. Many studies have shown that myofascial trigger points, which are usually a symptom of significant movement compensation and dysfunction or a guarding response to injury, cause significant pain, functional limitation, and further predisposition to more injury.
In experienced hands, dry needling can target these myofascial trigger points and disrupt the dysfunctional activity in the muscles. This will immediately decrease muscle tone, and normalize joint mobility and function. As a result, dry needling has become a top choice by a growing number of physical therapists and other health care providers in recent years.
In my clinical practice here in Colorado Springs, I often use dry needling in combination with other physical therapies in treating low back pain. In fact, recent research shows that dry needling – in conjunction with progressive corrective strategies – was significantly superior to dry needling alone in the improvement of pain and dysfunction.
Do you have questions about how dry needling can help speed your recovery and provide significant pain relief while improving function? Reach out at the phone number on this website or click the schedule button to get started right away!
Dr. Scott A. Jones, PT
Movement Performance Coach
Are you tired of the cycle of frustration, and ready to get back to your activities?