'Dry needling' therapy growing in popularity for pain management

A pain treatment that’s been around for years is growing more popular. 

Athletes have long used dry needling, but now everyday people are using it more for pain management ever since physical therapists in the state of Florida were approved to use it and started treating patients with it in 2021.

"When you’re in pain every day you kind of get used to it and you kind of work around it. And then all of the sudden that nerve would unhinge, and you can’t move. That’s when I decided I had to do something different," Tom Cotton, a patient, said.

Cotton has had six joint replacements. The first was in 2009 for shoulder pain. The most recent was in 2021. He didn’t want one more. 

"I’ve tried acupuncture, cupping, you know when you’re in pain, you try all sorts of things to avoid an operation or to avoid taking pills," Cotton said.

Cotton decided to try dry needling. It’s similar to acupuncture, but it focuses more on relieving tension through trigger points."

Patients have told me that using dry needling has been nothing like any other physical therapy experience that they’ve had," Robby Hoffman, a physical therapist at Orlando Health said. "The first thing we need to do is find the trigger point. The patient can usually point and say it hurts right here. So then I’ll palpate over that trigger point and try to get the needle over that general area." 

Once the needle is inserted, Hoffman said it signals to the trigger point to release, which relaxes the muscle. It can be used to treat common back or shoulder pain, sports injuries, carpal tunnel, TMJ pain, and more. Patients often feel immediate relief.

Tom Cotton said two sessions made a world of a difference. Now, he’s back to focusing on the little things like perfecting his golf swing. "I’ve felt like I’ve almost been freed to do things that I want to do without pain again," Cotton said.

Dry needling is covered by insurance. The cost per session varies depending on your insurance plan.