What's This Dry Needling Thing I've Been Doing Recently?

Let's start by saying I am NOT a good PT student. 

Okay I should give myself the benefit of the doubt. Once I am IN PT, I am okay. It is the getting out of my own way and starting the PT process, that I really get hung up on. :P

I have been going to PT on and off since 4th grade. Oh yes I dipped my toe into the PT world at a young age and at one point in my PT career - at the age of maybe 23 - had a PT tell me I had the body of a 70 year old.

Ummm... thanks?

Note: If you are unsure, that is NOT a compliment. ;)

In 2015, I completed the Max Performance Triathlon Escape The Cape Sprint Triathlon and met Dave, owner of Boston Physical & Wellness at the Finish Line. He was offering post-race massages for all participants. Of course I jumped on that and started chatting with Dave. I learned that his location was less than a mile from my house.

I started seeing Dave in 2014 for some hamstring pain that just wouldn't go away. It was the first time Dave entered Dry Needling into my vocabulary. Well that sounded awfully scary and daunting.

I gave it a few tries and it really helped the hamstring. 

Flash forward to last month.

As we all know my IT band/knee pain came to the worst point during the Boston Marathon. Dave and his other PTs Zak and Danielle told me to get my butt into the office for some Dry Needling to fix the knee pain, which was stemming from the IT band issue.

So what exactly is dry needling?

I will let the experts, aka Dave and crew, answer this one:

Dry Needling (DN), a.k.a. Biomedical Dry Needling (BDN), Integrative Dry Needling (IDN) or Intramuscular Manual Therapy (IMT) is used for the treatment of pain and dysfunction, and has been found in the literature to improve pain, disability and function. The DN technique is a modern Western medical modality that is not based on Traditional Chinese Medical acupuncture, in that the purpose of DN is not to alter the flow of Qi or energy along traditional Chinese meridians. Dry needling has it's own theoretical concepts, terminology, and clinical application.
Dry needling is based on a modern comprehensive understanding of human neuromusculoskeletal anatomy, patho-physiology and on scientific research and pain models.
Dry Needling (DN) is effective for resolving soft tissue dysfunction, such as inflammation, tendonitis, contractures, trigger points, tissue adhesions, microcirculation, edema, and various other neuromusculoskeletal conditions.

You may be wondering: "Dani what does this really look like?"

Well friends it's your lucky day as I have pics and even video of what I have been doing.

I have been going once a week since the Marathon. Dave/Zak/Danielle have been a great at putting me at ease as the large needles (at least in my hip) start going in.

Please prepare for some pics of my pasty hip/leg. :P

After putting the needles in the body, it is time to hook it up to a STIM (stimulation) machine.

To give you the full picture, here is a quick video of the STIM in action.

The weekend after my first dry needling appointment, I had a half marathon complete with rolling hills. I was worried about how my IT band/knee would react. 

How'd it go?

Well I didn't really feel any pain in my IT band/knee until Mile 10. Even that pain was a fraction of what I felt in Boston.


After 3 dry needling appointments, I took on Ragnar Relay (22.04 miles) plus a Mother's Day 5k. So a total of 25.14 miles in 3 days.

How'd it go?

ZERO knee pain during any of the runs - complete with many rolling hills.


I can tell you that was my first pain-free run in well over a year. 

Yes my friends, I was tackling the ultra marathon last summer, my #runstreak and Boston, all with this pain. I ignored Dave's recommendations to get into PT (see first admission at beginning of post). 

So it's been well over a year since I ran without some form of pain in my knee.

Now at this time, my knee pain is creeping back in. I am not sure why, but I have an appointment with the BPT crew to see why. It could just be a cranky knee as I pick my activity back up.

But either way I can't thank Dave and the BPT team enough for having me try something out of my comfort zone, like dry needling, and being there to answer my 1,000 ridiculous questions.

I can't recommend this group enough for all of your Physical Therapy needs... and no this isn't a sponsored post. I just like to gush about this group whenever I can. :) 

Here are a couple of facts to keep in mind with dry needling:

  • The BPT crew instructed me to only dry needle a specific part of your body once a week.
  • After a dry needling session, no exercise, foam rolling or things like ibuprofen/advil.
  • Work with your PT to decide how long the needles will stay in for a session (my first was 10 min, second was 15 min, etc).
  • As Zak says: "Dry needling is only part of a long term solution, which includes movement and strength training."

Have you tried dry needling? Thoughts?