Dry Needling for Tendonitis: What You Need to Know

Dry Needling for Tendonitis: What You Need to Know

Introduction

Tendonitis is a debilitating condition resulting from the degenerative process of the tendons, often leading to pain and impaired function. Among various treatment options available, dry needling has gained popularity for its efficacy in managing tendon pain, particularly in cases of chronic tendon injuries. This blog delves into the intricacies of dry needling for tendonitis, contrasting it with acupuncture, and elaborates on its benefits, risks, and what to anticipate during a session.

Dry Needling

Dry needling, a contemporary treatment option for the management of musculoskeletal discomfort, stems from the early 20th century. It evolved from the practice of injecting substances like autologous blood injections into painful areas to alleviate discomfort. Subsequent discoveries highlighted that the insertion of dry needles alone could significantly reduce pain, leading to the advancement of dry needling techniques using monofilament needles without injecting any substance.

How does dry needling work?

The dry needling technique, often questioned for its effectiveness with inquiries like “Does dry needling work,” involves the precise penetration of thin, monofilament needles into myofascial trigger points or areas within the muscle fibers and tendons exhibiting chronic tightness or pain, such as the patellar tendon or rotator cuff tendons. This method is thought to interrupt the degenerative process and promote a healing response by improving blood flow, encouraging fibroblastic proliferation, and enhancing the tendon’s mechanical properties.

Previous studies have shown that using ultrasound guidance can improve the accuracy of needle placement, particularly in structures with poor blood supply, thereby optimizing the therapeutic effects of dry needling and affirming its effectiveness for those questioning its impact.

Differences Between Dry Needling And Acupuncture

Despite similarities in the use of needles, dry needling and acupuncture differ significantly in their approach, methodology, and underlying theories. Dry needling is grounded in Western medical science and primarily targets the muscular and connective tissues to alleviate pain and improve function. In contrast, acupuncture, rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, aims to balance the body’s energy flow or Qi through the insertion of needles along specific meridians. Here is a table showing the differences between them:

FeatureDry NeedlingAcupuncture
OriginBased on Western medicine principles, focusing on pain relief and muscle function.An ancient Chinese medicine technique aimed at balancing the body’s energy flow or Qi.
PurposeTargets muscular tension, knots, and trigger points to alleviate pain and improve function.Focuses on promoting overall well-being by restoring the body’s energy balance.
TechniqueInvolves inserting needles into trigger points or muscular knots.Needles are inserted along meridians or energy pathways to balance energy flow.
BasisGrounded in anatomy and neurophysiology.Based on traditional Chinese medicine principles.

Dry Needling for Tendonitis

Dry Needling for Tendonitis

Many ask, ‘Is dry needling good for tendonitis?’ The answer lies in understanding how dry needling specifically targets the affected tendons and surrounding muscles to alleviate pain and promote healing. Dry needling has shown promising results as part of a larger treatment plan for tendinopathy, including tendon dry conditions like patellar tendinopathy. It offers an effective nonoperative treatment modality by targeting abnormal tendon areas and stimulating a healing response without the need for more invasive techniques such as surgery. The incorporation of dry needling in the treatment protocols for tendon-related injuries can lead to marked improvements in pain and function.

Benefits of Dry Needling for Tendonitis

A common inquiry is ‘Does dry needling work for tendonitis?’ Studies and patient experiences suggest significant benefits, including pain relief and improved range of motion, affirming its effectiveness. The application of dry needling in tendonitis treatment can result in significant clinical, functional, and meaningful improvements. These benefits include:

  • Pain Relief: Many patients experience immediate short-term pain relief, as evidenced by reductions in scores on the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) following dry needling sessions. This relief is particularly beneficial for patients with knee osteoarthritis or similar conditions.
  • Improved Range of Motion and Mobility: Dry needling can alleviate muscle tightness and stiffness, facilitating a greater range of motion. This improvement is vital for daily activities and enhances the quality of physical activity.
  • Accelerated Healing Process: The technique promotes blood flow to the targeted area, crucial for tendons with poor blood supply, and stimulates the release of healing factors and growth factors, thus expediting the healing process.
  • Reduction in Muscle Tension and Stiffness: By directly targeting muscle fibers and connective tissues, dry needling can reduce localized inflammation, leading to a decrease in overall muscle tension and stiffness.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

While dry needling is generally safe, it is not devoid of potential risks and side effects, such as bruising, bleeding, pain, fatigue, dizziness, and muscle soreness. The effectiveness of tendon needling relies on precise needle penetration to target blood vessels and initiate an inflammatory process, fostering objective improvement, clinical improvements, and functional improvements in patients. Adhering to guidelines for minimizing risks, such as ensuring practitioner qualification and discussing medical history, significantly mitigates these risks and supports care after treatment.

Common Side Effects of Dry Needling

Bruising and Bleeding
The insertion of needles can sometimes lead to minor bruising and bleeding, especially in sensitive areas or where capillaries are close to the skin surface.

Pain During and After Treatment
While many find the procedure relatively painless, some discomfort during and after the session is possible as the muscles respond to the needle insertion, an aspect often highlighted in patient-reported symptoms and essential in the evaluation of pain patterns.

Fatigue and Dizziness
A temporary feeling of fatigue or dizziness may occur immediately after the session, typically lasting only a short period, suggesting the need for activity modifications.

Muscle Soreness
Similar to the aftereffects of a vigorous workout, muscle soreness can occur but usually subsides within a day or two, indicating the technique’s role in a larger treatment plan that may include injection therapy and the interval between injections for conditions like patellar tendinopathy, considered a first-line treatment.

Guidelines for Minimizing Risks

Ensure Practitioner Qualification
Always seek treatment from a licensed and qualified practitioner with experience in needling for tendinopathy treatment.

Discuss Your Medical History
Inform your practitioner about your medical history, especially if you have a condition that may affect your treatment, such as a bleeding disorder or fear of needles.

Inspect for Sterility
Ensure that your practitioner uses sterile, single-use needles to prevent infection.

Monitor for Signs of Complications
Be vigilant for any signs of infection or severe discomfort following the session and consult a healthcare provider if necessary.

Avoiding Sensitive Areas
Certain areas may be more prone to discomfort or complications; communicate with your practitioner about any concerns.

Avoid Overuse
Follow your practitioner’s recommendations on session frequency to avoid overstimulation of the muscles.

Hydrate and Rest
After a session, drink plenty of water and rest as needed to aid in recovery, reflecting the importance of care after treatment in enhancing the effectiveness of tendon needling.

What to Expect During a Dry Needling Session

What to Expect During a Dry Needling Session

During a dry needling session for tendonitis, patients should anticipate the insertion of thin needles into specific trigger points to elicit a healing response. Sessions typically last between 15 to 30 minutes, with the number of needles and specific targets varying based on individual needs. Utilizing ultrasound-guided dry needling can enhance the precision of needle placement, especially in tendons located deep within the body or in areas with complex anatomy.

At Continuous Motion PT, we specialize in integrating cutting-edge techniques, including dry needling, into our physical therapy treatments to provide relief for tendonitis and other musculoskeletal conditions. Our expertly trained therapists utilize precise needle penetration methods to ensure effective treatment outcomes, focusing on reducing pain, enhancing healing, and restoring function. Whether you’re suffering from patellar tendonitis or rotator cuff issues, Continuous Motion PT is committed to helping you achieve continuous motion and optimal health through personalized care and innovative therapy solutions.

Conclusion

Dry needling presents an effective treatment method for tendonitis, offering benefits like pain relief, improved mobility, and accelerated healing. As part of a comprehensive treatment approach, which may include physical therapy and other modern therapies like platelet-rich plasma injections, dry needling contributes to the conservative management of tendonitis, promising a return to normal function and activity with minimal risks.

FAQs

How long does dry needling last?

The effects of tendon needling, including relief from tendon pain and improvement in function, can vary but often last several weeks. Repeated sessions may be necessary for sustained benefits.

How long should dry needling hurt?

Discomfort during dry needling is usually brief, with post-treatment soreness typically subsiding within a day or two.

Does dry needling speed up healing?

Yes, dry needling can accelerate the healing process in tendinopathy by improving local blood circulation, reducing inflammatory processes, and encouraging collagen synthesis, thereby enhancing the chances of tendon healing and contributing to overall tissue repair.

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Dr. Cameron Moore

PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Peyton Oules, PT, DPT Cert. DN

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Dr. Peyton Oules, physical therapist, is a Brewster, Washington native who grew up as a small-town athlete. During her high school sports career, she suffered from two ACL injuries which led her to pursue a career in physical therapy. 

She began her studies by earning her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, Pre-PT at Eastern Washington University.  During her undergraduate studies, she spent much of her time playing volleyball and coaching at the high school level.  Dr. Oules continued her education to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in Goodyear, Arizona.While in school, Dr. Oules became Certified in both Dry Needling and Myofascial Cupping.

Part of her clinical training included international travel to Sydney, Australia where she expanded her orthopedic skill set and had the opportunity to provide treatment for the athletes from the 2023 World Underwater Hockey Championships.

During her doctorate level studies, Dr. Oules learned the importance in making movement a lifestyle. She has a passion for sharing this knowledge with the community and getting her clients back to the activities they love.

Outside of the clinic Dr. Oules enjoys CrossFit®, hiking, traveling, and spending time outdoors with her dog, Rue. Some of her favorite adventures to date include hiking parts of the Grand Canyon and running across the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Sydney 10k!

Dr. Peyton Oules’ Credentials:
•           Physical Therapist (PT)
•           Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
•           Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)

Dr. Khristian McGinley, PT, DPT Cert. DN

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Dr. Khristian McGinley, physical therapist, grew up here in Phoenix, as a competitive softball player with a longtime passion for health and wellness. After sustaining an elbow injury in high school and attending PT herself, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career helping people recover from injuries and getting back to doing what they love. She eventually received her B.S in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona in 2013, then earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2017.

Dr. McGinley began her career with a passion in pediatrics and orthopedics, undergoing coursework to treat diagnoses such as torticollis, developmental delay, and toe walking. She also became certified in Dry Needling in 2017, and since then has been additionally trained in Dry Needling for Pelvic Rehabilitation. After the challenging birth of her first child, she developed a passion for treating the pregnant and postpartum population. She became specialty training in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation in 2021 and since then has focused her practice on helping moms achieve pain free pregnancy, peaceful childbirth, and complete postpartum recovery. She specializes in diagnoses such as urinary incontinence, diastases recti, pelvic organ prolapse, and pelvic pain.

Outside of the clinic, Dr. McGinley enjoys hiking, running, camping, weight lifting, and playing slow pitch softball. She loves spending as much time as she can outside with her husband and two children.

Dr. Khristian McGinley’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Meredith Wall, PT, DPT FAFS, Cert. DN

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Dr. Meredith Wall, physical therapist, grew up as a competitive athlete in basketball, gymnastics, soccer and volleyball. After sustaining an ankle injury and going to rehab as a young athlete, she instantly fell in love with learning about sports injuries and rehabilitation. This led her to major in Exercises Science at Grand Valley State University. After she graduated in 2010, she immediately pursued physical therapy to ultimately achieve her lifelong goals of becoming a physical therapist. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Grand Valley State University in 2013, graduating as a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society recognizing individuals with outstanding GPA in a college graduate program.

Dr. Wall continued her educational pathway through the Gray Institute receiving a fellowship in Applied Functional Science (FAFS). A FAFS is only obtained by a select number of practitioners, who deliver optimal care through the diagnosis and treatment of functional human movement. She also became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN) in 2017, is trained in the McKenzie Method to treat spinal pain, and most recently has become specialized in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation. This specialty area allows her to treat women across the lifespan dealing with incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic pain, and pain during or after pregnancy.

Dr. Wall’s special interests include diagnosing and treating active patients across the lifespan to help them return to optimal function. In her spare time, she enjoys Crossfit®, running, coaching youth sports, and traveling with her husband and three sons.

Dr. Meredith Wall’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of Applied Functional Science (FAFS)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Cameron Moore, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Cameron Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, has always been very active with sports and activities starting with competitive motocross racing up to a semi-professional level and being a scholarship athlete in track and field competing at the division 1 level in college at Eastern Washington University in the triple jump. Cameron became interested in the profession of physical therapy after having knee surgery in high school and seeing the inter-workings of the profession. He pursued his bachelors degree in Exercise Science before moving to Phoenix to earn his Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from Franklin Pierce University.

He then began specialization courses for spinal manipulation (Spinal Manipulation Institute) and dry needling (Dry Needling Institute). This lead Cameron in to becoming a Fellow of the American Academy of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT) through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy (AAMT) and earned a Diploma of Osteopractic®, a distinction and training that only a small percentage of physical therapist have completed.

Dr. Moore continues to be very involved with motocross riding, Crossfit®, Olympic weight lifting, running and an overall active lifestyle with his Wife (Michelle) and their Vizsla (Parker).

Dr. Cameron Moore’s Credentials

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified in Dry Needling (Cert DN)
  • Certified in Spinal Manipulation (Cert SMT)
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip Osteopractic)
  • Fellow Of The American Academy Of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT)
  • American Academy of Manipulative Therapy Fellow (AAMT)
  • Crossfit® Level 1 Certified (CF-L1)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified
  • USA Track and Field Level 1 Coach

Dr. Michelle Moore, PT, DPT FAAOMPT, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Michelle Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, grew up as a competitive gymnast and developed a passion for healthy living from a young age. Her collegiate studies in Health Education at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and athletic background influenced her to combine her passions and pursue a career in physical therapy. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2013.

Dr. Moore continued her educational pathway through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy where she earned her Diploma Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic) and became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN), and Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT). From 2016-2017 Dr. Moore completed the rigorous coursework to become a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy (FAAOMPT), a distinction held by only a fraction of the profession.

Dr. Moore’s special interests include treating active individuals and returning them to the activities that they love. In her spare time she enjoys Crossfit®, Olympic Weightlifting, mountain biking, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Cameron, and dog, Parker.

Dr. Michelle Moore’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (FAAOMPT)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Certified Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified