IMS/ Intramuscular Stimulation/Dry needling
Whether recovering from an injury or dealing with everyday aches, tight muscles can be a pain in the neck. Functional dry needling is a new therapeutic treatment that stimulates twitches to provide pain relief.
“Functional dry needling involves inserting a very thin needle into a trigger point, a small knot or painful area in a muscle to stimulate a small twitch,” said Matt Holland, a Houston Methodist physical therapist. “The twitch can help release tight muscles and decrease pain.”
Functional dry needling is based on assessing deficits in the musculoskeletal system and treating the trigger points or taut bands associated with those deficits. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, such as sprains or strains, to provide pain relief. Common treatment areas are the neck, shoulder, hip, quadriceps, foot, and ankle, but any muscle with a trigger point can be treated with functional dry needling. During a July Fourth vacation, Melissa Hoover severely strained her left calf while playing volleyball with family.
“My first treatment was a bit unnerving,” Hoover said. “One needle was put in a trigger point on my leg, and the muscle twitched so much. The next day, my calf felt much better, so I’ve continued to get the needling treatments. I really feel like they have helped speed my recovery.”
Functional dry needling has also become a popular treatment with athletes, including the Houston Texans.
“This is a great tool for athletes to decrease muscle soreness, increase muscle function and increase flexibility,” said Geoff Kaplan, Houston Texans director of sports medicine/head athletic trainer. “The research behind functional dry needling proves the benefit from a chemical, physiological, and anatomical response, but the biggest reason we use it regularly with our players is because they feel significantly better after you do it.”
Kaplan adds that their soreness has decreased, their pain has decreased, and their function has improved. During peak training times, he says they will dry needle anywhere from 10-20 players per day.
Holland said that patients interested in the treatment should seek a medical provider who is certified to provide functional dry needling to ensure their safety during treatment. Most insurance plans will cover the cost of functional dry needling treatments.