Poor posture, sports injuries and stress are just a few factors that can lead to tight muscles.

And one method to relieve the tension growing in popularity is to “stick” it to the knotted muscles – with dry needling.

Dry needling, not to be confused with acupuncture, is a practice in which a certified physical therapist examines a patient to find the knotted muscles – the trigger points. A fine needle is then inserted into the taut bands within the muscle, which can be caused by injury or the abuse of the muscle over a period of time.

Once the needle is inserted the physical therapist maneuvers it around to disrupt the tightness.

Physical therapist Parul Haribhai said she has used dry needling for a little over a year on patients experiencing chronic pain, including neck, back and shoulder pain.

“I had injured my elbow after lifting a patient, and my colleagues, other physical therapists, said I should try it,” Haribhai said. So a colleague of mine did it on my arm, and it was amazing how much better I felt after one session.”

Earlier this year Haribhai opened her own practice, P3 Physical Therapy at 615 E. Schuster, and treats patients with chronic muscle pain, myofascial pain, sports injuries, TMJ or joint muscle pain, fibromyalgia, sciatica, scoliosis and other ailments.

Haribhai said patients usually notice a decrease in pain and tightness after one session, which can last between 20 to 45 minutes.

“But they do come back because the source of the pain may be in one area, but the pain doesn’t necessarily have to be just there; it can be referred to another part of the body,” Haribhai said.

Because the needle is so fine, patients don’t usually feel it going in, but they may feel it when she maneuvers the needle. Muscle soreness and some bruising are normal side effects. Most patients can return to normal activity or exercise after a dry needling session, but rest is encouraged.

Patient Marie Otero has suffered from tension around her neck and shoulders for several years. She said dry needling helped unknot her muscles.

“I had a frozen shoulder, and that happened from being on the computer or writing too much. It can also happen if you are in the same position for too long,” Otero said. “I had very little motion, and now I can put my hand behind my back again.”

To help manage her discomfort, Otero went to a chiropractor, exercised and tried acupuncture. Otero said they all worked, but dry needling helped the most.

“It has provided me with the longest lasting relief,” Otero said.

Otero said she couples her treatments with band and weight exercises.

Individuals may not be good candidates for dry needling if they are on blood thinners, have surgical implants, are pregnant, have active cancer or an infection. Haribhai added that if a patient was recently injured and has not suffered from chronic pain for more than three to six months, the patient may not be a candidate for dry needling.

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