In an effort to expand the treatment toolbox of their physical therapists, Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center held a three-day dry needling clinic, Aug. 24-26.
Dry needling is a skilled intervention that uses a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying muscular and connective tissue to treat pain and impaired movement.
This localized treatment involves targeting trigger points to help guarded, tight muscles relax to improve function.
A safe and effective alternative
Shane O’Malley, RMR physical therapy supervisor, said dry needling is used frequently at VA to treat Veterans with spinal or peripheral pain. It’s also an option for patients experiencing pain and functional deficits, whether chronic or from a recent injury. O’Malley said many patients claim dry needling helps manage their symptoms effectively and can decrease their reliance on pain medication.
O’Malley said dry needling is a safe and effective alternative to pain medications and less conservative modalities. It is also tolerated well by most patients, with the aftermath described as a muscle achiness akin to working out.
O’Malley’s team often incorporates multi-modal treatment, using dry needling with exercise, active movement and manual therapy.
“We create a plan designed to help patients perform their daily activities. Dry needling is part of that management plan,” said O’Malley. He explained that patients often see a benefit from dry needling over the course of a few treatments in addition to other modalities. He added that some patients use this therapy for ongoing pain management; some for a tune up. It varies based on a patient’s response and treatment goals.
Expanding treatment options through training
Physical therapists in the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System have used dry needling to treat Veterans since 2016, and many VA clinicians have already received training in this modality. The entry-level, intensive training course taught 16 additional physical therapists to use the technique safely and efficiently. They are now certified as level 1 dry needling practitioners.
“Since these clinicians were able to add dry needling to their toolbox, this expands our treatment options for outpatient and inpatient services,” said O’Malley.
Coordinated by Dr. Kathryn Scott, an inpatient physical therapist, the one-time training was conducted by three expert dry-needling instructors from the Palo Alto VA Medical Center. They coached the VA ECHCS therapists through education funds provided by the Pain Management, Opioid Safety and Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
“We are very appreciative of the PMOP leadership and their dedication to improving Veteran care opportunities,” said O’Malley.
The Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Service leadership team also wished to congratulate and commend the clinicians for their efforts, hard work and dedication to their patients.
Please get in touch with your primary care team for more information about dry needling or any physical therapy treatment option.
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April Love is a Writer-Editor on the VISN 19 Creative Task Force. She began working for Denver VA in 2016 and lives in Aurora, Colorado.