This week I’ve been hobbling around, not as a result of my fast (for me) 17 mile run on Sunday, but because of the dry needling I had done on Wednesday morning in my calves.I had a lot of questions over the past few weeks about Dry Needling and what the benefits are for runners.
Apologies if you don’t like the look of needles…
Dry needling is a treatment, similar to acupuncture, used to treat myofascial injuries by physiotherapists and chiropractors. Thin, 1/4mm needles are inserted into the trigger points of certain muscles to relieve pain. This doesn’t hurt too much but can often lead to twitches/spasms in the muscle – I didn’t find this too bad in my quads/ITB but my very tight calves were unpleasant.
Usually there isn’t any bleeding or bruising but apparently it can sometimes occur. The length of time the needles are kept in depends on the location and your body’s response (I feel like the needles in my calves were kept in for a really long time but I’m sure that’s just because they were being twisted!) According to studies, dry needling works in athletes by deactivating trigger points, allowing us to train pain-free whilst undergoing treatment.
It helps release and loosen the muscles. The needles are twisted so that the muscles tighten around the needle – and relax once the needle is removed. It decreases the resting tone in the muscle and to increase your pain threshold.
Other studies hypothesise that dry needling works because the nervous system responds to the acute pain caused by the needle puncture or kickstarting the body’s healing process, reducing the chronic pain, whilst other research suggests that the pain works as endorphins are released as a response to the needle, alleviating the pain. Perfect Balance explain that the following evidence based benefits occur from dry needling;
- disruption of the motor end plate (where the
- restore levels of calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP) substance P and Hydrogen ions
- promote normal acetyl-choline levels
- may stimulate platelet derived growth factor (promoting the healing response)
- Quietens spontaneous motor activity related to abnormal acetyl-choline
OK that’s quite sciencey, I had to google a lot of what it meant and I have been doing Anatomy & Physiology for the past two years!
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m more aware of dry needling or whether it’s becoming more common practice, but since having my first treatment a month ago, I’ve heard about more and more people having it done in combination with their physio or sports massage sessions.
My cousin Lucy who is currently training for the Edinburgh Marathon recently had needles inserted into her shins and calves to help with her shin splints and said that it’s really helping her – she’s taken the week off running but they feel much better and she’s had no pain cycling/walking/gyming. I think a combination of regular sports massages, increased stretching and foam rolling is really helping me this training period, as is lots of easy recovery miles – I’m not hammering the pavement on every single run!
Owen is keeping me in top shape, despite the pain I’m sometimes in while I’m on the massage table…I’ve been focusing a lot on rolling my quads and ITB (because of my previous knee trouble) however this time around it’s my calves and hamstrings that apparently are a little ‘gristly’, so I guess those are the focus this weekend….
Now I’m off for a run in the rain! Hope you’re having a great weekend.