Needling muscle pain: Releasing knots and spasms by hitting trigger points

  • Linda Sharkey of Orthopedic Physical Therapy at The Body Shoppe in Greenfield administers a Functional Dry Needling treatment to a client. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The single-use disposable needles used in dry needling are about the width of a human hair and are the same kind that are used in acupuncture. But instead of treating health problems by stimulating energy meridians in the body, in dry needling, the needle is used to find the trigger point in a tight muscle. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Therapist Linda Sharkey, who has a doctorate in physical therapy, learned the FDN technique last fall and practiced on Body Shoppe staff members for several months before offering it as a physical therapy option. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

For the Gazette
Published: 4/2/2018 3:47:51 PM

A treatment to ease muscle knots, twitches, spasms and muscle tightness uses hair-thin needles to release tension and relieve pain.

Called Functional Dry Needling, or FDN, it differs from acupuncture in that instead of treating health problems by stimulating energy meridians in the body, the needles are used to find the trigger points in a tight muscle and then are gently twisted to release the tension.

Orthopedic Physical Therapy (OPT) at The Body Shoppe Health and Fitness, 306 Hope St., Greenfield has begun offering FDN treatment.

“Dry needling isn’t really new,” said Linda Sharkey, the physcial therapist there who administers the treatments, “but it is new here.” She says dry needling has been used in other parts of the United States for over a decade. “Patients report good results, and research shows not just changes in movement and pain, but changes like increased blood flow, and decreased local inflammation, too,” she said.

Sharkey, who has a doctorate in physical therapy, learned the FDN technique last fall and practiced on Body Shoppe staff members for several months before offering it as a physical therapy option.

I had started thinking about (dry needling) when I was seeing people with persistent stiffness,” she said, noting that many people describe the constant feeling of having a “knot” in a muscle, or chronic lower back pain, sciatica.

“These kinds of conditions can go on forever and develop scar tissue,” said Elizabeth Dolby, co-owner of Orthopedic Physical Therapy at The Body Shoppe.

The first visit takes about an hour and it includes an assessment for the client. The follow-up visits are generally a half hour and are followed immediately by exercise.

Sharkey and Dolby say clients will generally feel a muscle twitch when the needle reaches the trigger point. The needle is left in until the muscle relaxes, which leads to improved flexibility and a decrease in pain.

The therapy can ease hamstring strain and tennis elbow, according to Sharkey. She said she also has seen it ease some of the tremors in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Some people come for relief of post-surgery muscle stiffness, even for post-mastectomy pain and stiffness, said Sharkey, who has been seeing about six patients weekly.

The assessment and physical therapy exercises may be covered by health insurance, but the needle treatments, which cost $20, are not.




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