Written by Molly M. Current and former patient – As I walked into Dr. Natalie’s clinic, my thoughts were consumed by the headaches I had been battling on and off for years. A combination of constant computer work, stress, weightlifting and sports injuries finally emerged as increased tension and overuse of my upper trap musclces. I often utilized ibuprofen or Tylenol to help manage my headaches, until I met Dr. Natalie.
I kept hearing about dry needling over the past year as the latest ‘hot topic’ in medicine, specifically physical therapy. Many of my friends and colleagues had experienced this treatment and were pleased with the results, but I was hesitant. Some had complete resolution of their pain with just a few sessions, while others also experienced significant relief in just one visit. Typically, their dry needling sessions averaged between 4-8 visits, but many had sought out multiple methods of treatment with limited or no results.
As for me, I was hoping for even the tiniest bit of relief. I didn’t expect that my headache would “run away” like it did! Dr. Natalie was very thorough in explaining the dry needling treatment and was very clear as to what I should expect. “Targeting the trigger points in your muscles, you may experiences some muscle soreness and occasional bruising, and sometimes nothing at all,” she says. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Natalie placed the small, thin needle into my upper back. While very different from acupuncture, the needle is not only placed deeper into my muscle tissue, Dr. Natalie also repetitively moves the needle with a piston-type motion. During this time I experienced my muscle twitching, lasting only seconds at a time. This twitching sensation initially reproduced my headache symptoms, which Dr. Natalie assured me that this is ‘normal’ and further proves that my upper trapezius and levator muscles were the ones contributing to my headaches. I was concerned it would be painful, but it was actually more comfortable that the usual “myofacial release” or manual therapy that I had tried before.
After the session, my headache was significantly reduced and my muscles felt ‘tired.’ Dr. Natalie suggested that I use heat to help increase blood flow to the area that was treated and to help with any soreness. She also suggested that I go about my normal activities and to lift weights if I wasn’t too sore. Thanking Dr. Natalie as I left, I appreciated her thoroughness and expertise. She was willing to listen to my concerns and answer every last one of my questions. Not to mention that I was headache free later that evening and into the next day!
The following day, I experienced some soreness and minor bruising, but nothing I haven’t ever experienced with other treatments, and I knew it was a “good sore.” As an added benefit, the soreness I experienced made me aware of my technique with weight lifting, realizing I was compensating with my upper trapezius muscles with much of my upper body weight lifting routine.
If you are wondering if this is the right treatment for you, I highly recommend scheduling a complimentary assessment with physical therapist to learn more about how this could help and to ask all the questions you may have!
The picture below depicts the trigger point (XX) and the referral pattern (in blue). If this is where you are feeling your headaches, you may significantly benefit from Trigger Point dry needling to the upper trap.