Dry Needling for RecoveryOct 09, 2019
By: Molly King
Recovery is a buzzword in the health, fitness, and sports worlds. Optimizing nutrition, sleep, gentle movement, and mental stress management techniques are important and effective. But many of us still struggle to get our nervous system in a true recovery state! Dry needling can give you the boost you need.
What Is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is a manual therapy technique that utilizes acupuncture needles to promote self-healing via normalized soft tissue mobility, nervous system function, and blood flow. Traditionally used to address a specific injury, we can extrapolate these effects to promote total body recovery from competition, training, mentally/emotionally stressful events, or the cumulative effects of day to day stress.
How Does Dry Needling For Recovery Work?
Following a specific map of 24 points (on each side of the body), thin, flexible acupuncture needles are inserted and left in place for 15-30 minutes. You can add electrical stimulation to the needles to “turn up” the effects of the treatment. This protocol promotes the switch from a sympathetic (fight or flight) state to a parasympathetic (rest and recover) state.
Who Is Dry Needling For Recovery For?
Anyone who lives in a sympathetic state and needs a little help to promote effective recovery can benefit from dry needling, from the competitive athlete to the c-suite executive or busy parent. Typically, under-recovered people will complain of:
- Difficulty sleeping
- “Heaviness” of a limbs/body
- Mental health concerns – anxiety, depression, always “stressed out”
- Poor athletic performance
- Takes longer to feel “normal” after a workout or competition
- Tight muscles
- Generalized soreness/achiness
- Catch every little bug
Does it hurt?
No. Dry needles do not feel like the needles/injections you are used to. Most of the pain associated with an injection is due to the fluid being pushed into your body, not the actual needle. Since we aren’t injecting anything, this pain is eliminated. Most of the time, you don’t feel the prick of the needle. Some points may be achey or twitch, which is an indication that the tissue is sensitized and needs treatment.
How will I feel after the treatment?
Since the treatment promotes a parasympathetic state, many will feel relaxed, loose, and sleepy. Due to this common response, we recommend scheduling this type of treatment for later in the day, after a competition, or several days before competition. We do not recommend it right before a competition, workout, or a busy day of work, however, there are different styles of dry needling that do not promote parasympathetic drive and can be used immediately before a competition or workout.
I’m already seeing a physical therapist for an injury. Can we integrate the recovery protocol into my normal treatment plan?
Yes! If you’re trying to promote generalized recovery to enhance injury healing, local treatment of the specific injury can be integrated into the full body protocol. You can also do just one part of the recovery protocol as a part of a regular treatment or recovery session (i.e. arm for pitchers, leg for ACL surgery recovery, etc.).