Relieving Stress Through Dry Needling

-  Submitted by Loudoun Physical Therapy

What causes stress?

Your boss wants your reports now, your child is sick, your family wants you to take time off, your staff are not producing as they should, or you owe the IRS thousands of dollars you don't have. These and others can cause you to feel seriously stressed out.

Stress is actually a normal part of life. At times, it serves a useful purpose. Stress can motivate you to run the last mile of a marathon or hit that outrageous sales goal. Over 70% of Americans say they experience real physical symptoms from stress which can interfere with job, family, life, and health itself.

Everyone has different stress triggers but work stress tops the list, according to surveys.  Over 40% of U.S. workers admit to experiencing office stress, and over 25% say work is the biggest source of stress in their lives.

How does stress play into muscle tension?

When we get stressed, our bodies natural response is to protect us, and as a result we get muscle tension.  When we have constant stress in our lives, our bodies will stay in that constant state of muscle tension/guarding.  A great example of this is when the muscles in your neck, head and shoulders get tight due to stress and poor posture while sitting at a computer desk all day long.  When your neck, head and shoulders develop this chronic tension, it results in stress-related disorders such as tension headaches and migraine headaches.  Chronic muscle tension can also lead to muscle atrophy (the muscles get weak because we are not using them the way that they are supposed to be used).  Dry needling can help reduce this tension.

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is a skilled manual technique performed by a physical therapist, where filiform needles (which are very thin needles, similar to acupuncture needles) are used to penetrate the skin to relieve trigger points.  A trigger point is a hypersensitive irritated spot in a tight muscle that is often painful when touched and is often times causing referred (pain in other muscle groups nearby) tenderness and motor dysfunction (your ability to move and function normally). 

How can dry needling help with stress relief?

When we have tight muscles, often times trigger points (those tight, tender nodules in your muscles) develop, and dry needing (along with exercise and postural re-education), can help with decreasing those trigger points.  The goal of dry needling is to penetrate these trigger points with the filiform needles and obtain an involuntary reflexive response within that dysfunctional muscle.  When dry needling targets those trigger points, and we get a twitch response, it results in increased muscle flexibility (decreased guarding), and increased blood flow (increased healing) to the area, resulting in decreased symptoms, increased feeling of relaxation and well-being and a decreased incidence of stress-related disorders.  In layman’s terms, this means it can actually help you relieve the tension and tightness caused by stress quickly!


To learn more about dry-needling, please click here.

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