Thursday, August 16, 2012

Trigger Point Dry Needling - Cool

OK so you all know how I have been complaining about my foot ailments (self-diagnosed metatarsalgia and plantar fasciitis). Living in London without a car, while trying to look somewhat stylish, is very hard on your feet.

So after reading an article in the UK Runner's World, entitled Beyond the Ice Pack by Sam Murphy, I decided to try a more "whole body" approach to my feet. Especially since we are about to head to the Cotswolds for a 100+ mile hike next week - more on that in the next post.

Anyway I went to Ambition Health and Performance, which is located within my awesome gym (Queen Mother Sports Center). I originally booked a lower leg massage, but I saw one of the masseuses was also an osteopath. So I booked the appointment with him. Sweet, maybe he can help me figure out a plan to get my feet healed.

So I arrived for my appointment on Monday, we had a chat about my pains and medical history, and I was asked to stripped down to undies and jog bra for a look at my spine and hips and such.

 And, well shit - that was a VERY awkward moment for me there. Not the nudity (I am a bit hippy-ish, just turned 38, and have been married for 9 years; it's not often someone asks me to strip down to my undies), it was that had just come from the pool and had put on running shorts for the consultation/massage because I thought they'd maybe have me run or do some strength tests, and really I can barely remember to bring my goggles to the pool - let alone a clean pair if decent looking post-swim undies.

So I had to tell the poor guy in a very non-sexy way, "I'm not wearing any underwear." Oh god. I am such a douche.

So we continued the assessment anyway - in running shorts. Well the osteopath confirmed what I thought, no arthritis in the left foot, and thankfully no Morton's neuroma. There may be some joint damage, but I am going to be better about my footwear and see if I can continue the healing process that seems to have already begun.

Then the osteopath asked if I had other pains in my right leg (besides the plantar fasciitis in my foot). Actually I do, but it is dull enough that I have been living with it for maybe 8 years. The outside of my knee below the knee cap has been sore forever. I just ignore it and ice the area if it bothers me, which it always does after long runs.

Well he massaged the outside of my leg along my upper calf to check it out and holy crap it really hurt, it hurt even worse on the backside of my calf. Now this isn't my actual calf muscle or Achilles tendon, this is way different. Apparently it was a problem with the smaller muscles that run along my fibula, under the calf. The muscles were so tense, and tight, they hurt to be massaged. WEIRD, I haven't even been running much so they weren't tight from that. I never massage that area so I didn't know it was so tender. Could this be the source of my right foot pain?

Well before I knew WTF was going on, he stuck a 3-inch-long needle way into the side of my lower leg and I immediately felt the muscle react and release all the way into my foot. It was the weirdest feeling ever. I ran home and asked Google what the guy had done to me. This wasn't acupuncture he was doing, this was Trigger Point Dry Needling. I had never heard of it before. Apparently it isn't big in the U.S. yet but is very common in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and South Africa.

Circle = Pain, X = Very Approximate Needle Insertion Spot, Bruise = I Am Clumsy.

So how does Trigger Point Dry Needling work, I pulled this from an ISSA Physical Therapy website FAQ sheet on the subject:

When a needle tip hits a trigger point, a characteristic ‘local twitch’ in the muscle is noted by the clinician and the client. This local twitch is involuntary. It has been shown that the elicitation of local twitch responses is the most important aspect in obtaining a successful therapeutic outcome for trigger point deactivation. There are a number of hypotheses as to the reasons why dry needling works. Dry needling and the subsequent local twitch responses may mechanically disrupt the contracted nature of the trigger point. Dry needling stimulates certain neurological sensors in the body which modulate pain signals. Dry needling and the subsequent local twitch responses can cause positive local biochemical changes and result in an increase of blood flow.

Sounds a bit non-scientific but neato, right?!

I had my first appointment on Monday and went back today (Thursday) for a second treatment, where there was more painful massage and even longer needles were placed into a few other spots so they would release. It was so freaking cool and I was DYING to take pictures, but I don't think my very professional osteopath would have liked that......

Today my leg feels a bit sore and tired, but the pain on lower outside of my knee that I have had for years, especially while going down stairs and walking up minor grades, is significantly lessened. I am resting it and will try out on a short run tomorrow. My feet are about the same though, no real pain relief there - YET.

Is Trigger Point Dry Needling a panacea of some sort for injured runners? Probably not. I really believe in the placebo effect (I am highly suggestible and impressionable after all), and this might just be that. But who cares - if it works for me, maybe it will work for someone else too!

I'll let you all know how I am progressing. And maybe next time I will talk the osteopath into letting me take some photos of giant needles in my leg so I can post them.

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