New Trend: Dry Needling

When you think of relaxing your muscles, poking them with needles isn't typically what comes to mind. Now, physical therapists and their patients might change that with a technique called dry needling.

It works by providing stimulus to a problem area. The small needle going into the muscle allows the body to produce a relaxation response relieving the tension.

"It helps to decrease all of that tension in the muscle and, again, it just provides that stimulus for your body to help heal itself," Gail Johnson, a physical therapist at HSHS St. John's Hospital, said.

Coupled with other forms of therapy, physical therapists recommend dry needling for a variety of muscle strains, nerve conditions, and much more.

"Not only based on patient symptoms, but also what we feel when we're examining patients, we can identify problem areas," Johnson said.

Josh Hester just finished with his fourth treatment for radio tunnel syndrome he developed over years of editing photography.

"I would get tightness and weakness in my forearm; in my right forearm. It would also travel up my arm into my back," Hester, the owner of Storyteller Studios, said.

Typically, a session takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Depending on the ailment, patients usually start noticing a response after the first couple sessions.

"Originally the order was for six weeks, we're in week four and I think we're done," Hester said.

Once the sessions are complete, most patients experience no lingering effects and are completely pain free.

"It's a process, but it absolutely works as described. At least it has for me," Hester said.

Even though it's common to associate dry needling with acupuncture, they are very different. Acupuncture is based on ancient eastern Asian medicine. The areas for puncture is based on energy fields and meridians. Dry needling is western medicine revolving around specific trigger points in muscles and nerves.