Monday, March 31, 2014

My First PT Appointment and Dry Needling

Alternatively titled: The Time I Jumped Head First into a Controversial Medical Treatment on Blind Faith

This past Saturday I had my first physical therapy appointment for the pain I have been having in my hip. My physical therapist, Mike, was all business and I liked that. I am completely serious about getting this issue kicked as soon as I can so I can get back to running.

After a good while manipulating my legs and hips he narrowed my problems down to the piriformis and my SI joint. Apparently they are all out of whack (yes, this is the actual scientific medical terminology) because my pelvis is pretty unbalanced. I favor my right side, which makes the left side weaker and less flexible.

Immediately he made a plan: 1) deal with the pain, 2) get my pelvis properly aligned and 3) strengthen the left side. I was pretty encouraged by his enthusiasm and confidence that he could fix me.  Furthermore, I was pretty psyched that we could start dealing with the pain right away with some Dry Needling. 

I'm sorry, needle? What?

In Dry Needling, small acupuncture needles are inserted into the trigger points, or knots, in your muscle. The needle is inserted directly into the the knot and than moved slightly around the area. This causes a local trigger response, which feels like a muscle spasm. This makes the muscle fibers release allowing the muscle to relax. 

Mike warned me extensively that this was not a comfortable procedure. He offered me the chance to go home and research it and come back. Or I could do it right now.  I surprised myself in agreeing so quickly, since I am a huge baby when it comes to needles, but I love running more and I want to get better quick.

He had me lay on my stomach on the table while he located the knots in my piriformis. The muscle is so tight that it was quite uncomfortable just to have him palpate it. The needles themselves didn't hurt, just the tiniest pinch. I felt nothing until he hit the trigger point. When he did, it felt like a jolt of electricity which was quite uncomfortable.  He did this for 4 trigger points before we stopped for the day. 

When I got up off the table the results were immediate. My pain was gone. It was crazy and too good to be true. I was sore from the muscle spasms, but the actual pain I had been experiencing for the past three weeks was so much better.

I woke up on Sunday with quite a bit of soreness which, from what Mike told me and from I read after the fact, was to be expected. This morning I am feeling no pain in the piriformis area. My SI joint is still pretty achy, though.

I have to say that I am glad I didn't go home and read up on it first because a lot of what I have read would have deterred me from going through with the treatment. Most people say it is very painful. While there was some element of pain and discomfort, over all it wasn't too terrible. Also Dry Needling is a pretty controversial treatment in the PT world and not approved in every state.  I can only speak for my own personal experience. I went into that appoint hoping for a miracle to cure my pain and I got one.

This is only the first step to my road to recovery. I will most likely need more dry needling sessions in the coming weeks, but now that we've been able to significantly lessen the pain, I have to get to work on the underlying problems that caused my pain in the first place. We'll work on strengthening up my left side. hopefully a return to running might not be too far off.

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