It’s used by WHAT IS IT? physios who want to reach problem areas of tissue deep in a muscle. They insert thin (acupuncture-like) needles into tense bands of muscle. ‘Needles can solve a problem that standard soft-tissue work hasn’t been successful with, as it can reach the areas other techniques can’t reach,’ says sports physiotherapist David Wells ( physicalproject.co. uk). ‘It causes muscles to relax, blood flow to increase and the body’s healing process to begin,’ says physio Scott Epsley.
WHAT DOES IT TREAT? ‘It’s great for releasing stubborn muscles and fascia – most successfully in athletes with ITB syndrome, troublesome calves and glutes that don’t want to release,’ says Wells.
HOW EFFECTIVE? There is a growing body of evidence showing the benefits of dry needling.
WHO’S HAD IT? Three-time Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae uses the therapy when she is deep in training. While Carfrae says deep-tissue massage work alleviates most of her problems, sometimes she’ll have a ‘super tight muscle’ that just won’t loosen up. For these cases, she turns to dry needling, which ‘can go deeper and only takes a session or two to help the muscle relax.’
The needles DOES IT HURT? are very fine, so there is minimal discomfort upon entry. Once the needles penetrate the trigger point, expect a dull pain, similar to someone pressing on a bruise. The needles remain in the trigger point for five to 15 minutes, or are inserted and withdrawn from the area several times. ‘In the majority of applications dry needling is less painful than standard manual therapy,’ says Wells.
Dry WHO OFFERS IT? needling is now offered by many physiotherapists and clinics across the UK.
From WHAT’S THE COST? around £40 per session.
Epsley TREATMENT PLAN? says runners require from two to seven sessions over a few weeks. If the issue doesn’t improve after multiple treatments, he says, ‘something other than a soft-tissue issue, like a stress fracture, may be causing the problem’.