Dry Needling Works Wonders for Tight Muscles

Thursday, 8 January 2009  |  Therapy + Injury

I was on that patient’s bed for a full 50 minutes this morning, lying flat on my stomach while squeezing a poor pillow to death, with my eyes shut tight for fear that I’d dash out the door once I saw those needles.  Either I’m crazy or I’m a masochist, I thought.  No one forced me to call my PT, Aspi, last night to schedule yet another intense dry needling session this morning.  But, here I was, ready to succumb to the pain because I knew it worked wonders for my shin splints before.  So, I told myself, No, you’re not crazy.  You’re just willing to do anything to run pain-free again.

According to this site, DRY NEEDLING “utilises a solid, filament needle, as is used in the practice of acupuncture, and relies on the stimulation of specific reactions in the target tissue for its therapeutic effect.”  

Based on my experience with dry needling, a big needle is basically inserted directly into the target area (e.g., tight muscle or lump) and, if inserted at the perfect spot, the patient will feel a twitch or almost like an electric current pass through the body; that’s how you know the tight muscle was hit.  The needle is inserted one at a time into different areas that the therapist determines is tight.

This is definitely not acupuncture.  Acupuncture uses smaller needles, which cause little or no pain, and is inserted all at once in different parts of the body from head to toe.  The needles are left there for a good 30 minutes while one rests, or even sleeps in complete bliss.

In Moro Lorenzo Sports Center, Aspi is the only therapist I know who does dry needling.  When he left in June to finish his studies in Australia, I was in a state of panic.  I visited three other doctors who did acupuncture hoping that it would be similar to dry needling.  Nope, I didn’t find anyone who offered dry needling, much less heard of it in Metro Manila.  You can imagine my relief (okay, that’s an understatement because I was literally jumping for joy) when I heard that Aspi was back in town.  Better yet, he’s based here again!

So, back to my story…As I lay on the bed, Aspi poked at my left lower leg in search of the tight muscles around the shins and calves, which gave me minor problems during the past few runs.  As soon as he spotted tightness in the muscles, he’d count aloud “1…2…3” and I’d feel the needle dig into my skin.  Most of the time, it would feel like an injection, just an ant bite, but others were slightly more painful, as in mahapdi.  Aspi would then move the needle from side to side waiting for that muscle to twitch.  How does this feel?  Uh, like nothing, only like someone is twisting and squeezing your muscles from the inside, which is why some PBA players have shed a tear or two during these sessions. If the muscles did twitch, Aspi would see the movement under my skin or feel it with his fingers on my leg, or he would just listen to me shout “Ouch!” and he would know it worked.  Then, he’d move to another area and do the same thing all over again.

Again, we did this for a full 50 minutes this morning.  It was painful, sweat-inducing, and tiring.  I could barely walk to the restroom or to the parking lot.  Now, my entire left calf is sore and painful.  But, I would do this again in an instant.  Why?  Because it’s what worked for me.  I predict that I’ll be back into my training program as soon as the soreness disappears.

NOTE:  I hope I didn’t scare you with my detailed account.  I wouldn’t have said it any other way as I don’t want to sugar-coat it or make it sound less painful than it really is (flashback of my pregnant self thinking that my baby’s delivery would be smooth and easy: NOT!  I wanted to ask my Mom, who gave birth to 7 kids, why didn’t you tell me?!)  

ANOTHER NOTE: While this may have worked for me, it may not work for you.  I think it’s the greatest secret of the universe, but my therapists say it’s not the antidote to all tight muscles.  Old-fashioned stretching, strengthening, and drills should be continued. 

Desperate Runner

Monday, 23 June 2008  |  Therapy + Injury


– My xray results.  No fractures here. –

“Are you desperate?”  This was the question that my good ol’ doctor posed before me soon after he reviewed the tibia xray I submitted to him last Thursday.  After visiting him regularly (perhaps “way too often” is a better description) the past weeks, he ruled out a fracture and was definite that my injury was a muscle problem that could only be cured by strengthening exercises that would take, as he said, at least 6 weeks to have some effect.  

“Desperate? Me?” I thought.  Then, without hesitation, I replied “YES.  Super desperate, doc. I need to run again asap.”  And, that’s when he told me to meet him at Moro Lorenzo Sports Center on this day.

This afternoon, I found myself at Moro Lorenzo with the good doctor before me surrounded by a dozen athletes who were probably still in their mothers’ womb while I was already riding my pink BMX outdoors. (Never had I felt so old and decrepit—injured and bloated na, matanda pa!)  My doctor introduces me to Kristine, the head physiotherapist, who I met last year when Adidas gave me a foot assessment.  Then, Kristine introduces me to the therapist who will take care of me.  The guy looked like a younger Robert Downey, Jr. with the charm and brains of Dr. McDreamy.  Oh, I thought it was embarrassing to have to show him my feet, but what the hell, he was probably a decade younger than me too.

He interviewed me for a long 15-20 minutes, asking every detail of my injury and jotting this down on a sheet.  He stared at my feet for the longest time that my toes almost blushed.  He checked how I walk, gave me a range test, taped my foot, and so on and so forth.  Needless to say, it was the most comprehensive assessment I had ever been through.

Basically, he had the same evaluation as my doctor.  Overpronation is the main culprit.  My left foot overpronates which causes too much strain on my shin muscles.  He taught me strengthening exercises then saved the best part for last… acupuncture.

It was my first time to get—how shall I say it—acupunctured?  It was definitely a new experience—the bite of an ant followed by an inner squeezing, twisting, and burning of muscles, sometimes highlighted by an explosive pain when the muscles suddenly twitches.  Ooooh, not an experience that I particularly enjoyed.  However, if I had to choose between “releasing” of muscles through massage or acupuncture, I would, without a second thought, go for the latter.  It was just more bearable.

I ended the session with my leg looking like a mummy.  I had kinesio tape wrapped over my shin and tape all around my foot.  Then, before I left, I asked my favorite question “So, when can I run again?”  Dr. Robert Downey replied “Not this week.”  So much for the Rush to Mizuno Run that I was hoping to join (I even registered for it last Friday).  This Bull Runner didn’t even put up a fight.  I accepted his answer and limped my way out of the clinic.  Looks like I’m getting better at dealing with life’s little injuries.


Tuesday, 10 June 2008  |  Therapy + Injury

I wish I told you how ecstatic I was over my first ever mountain bike ride last Sunday where my Garmin got his first taste of a biking event and registered it at 40 min for 9km.  Or, how my first Ashtanga yoga session last Wednesday completely blew me away and gave me a peek into the spiritual side of yoga which I am all too excited to explore.  Or, how foolish I felt for thinking that the pool would be open yesterday, a holiday, so instead of doing 50-meter laps, I found myself swimming with my children complete with lifesavers and noodle floats at my in-laws little pool.

No, I couldn’t bring myself to tell you about last week’s little details because it had nothing to do with running.  This is, after all, a running blog.  

Truth be told, running and I haven’t been in good terms lately.  I have been furious with him since the day I learned about the shin splints.  I yelled at him from across the room (making sure my kids couldn’t hear) “After all that I’ve given to you—my heart and my soul—you give me runner’s knee and now this shin problem?!  What kind of a person are you?  Are you even human?!”  To which, he replies “Of course, I’m inhuman.  I’m a sport, dummy.”  Such disrespect!  I couldn’t take the cruelty so I packed my gym bags and took off.  (Okay, now you know why this post is entitled LQ.  Ang baduy ko, I know!  This is what happens when I don’t run.)  I haven’t seen him for a full two weeks—16 days, to be exact—since my last run. Despite therapy sessions, the lumps on my shins haven’t disappeared and continue to bother me at every step.

Since then, I have moved on.  I’ve been getting my cardio workouts from the elliptical trainer at the gym, swimming, and biking.  (Sadly though, none of these will ever compare to the workout that running gave me.  I am still gaining weight despite all these other cardio activities…grrr.)  I also have at least two sessions of either bikram yoga, ashtanga yoga (my new love), or yogilates each week.

When I recover from my shin splints (don’t ask me when because this is taking a lot longer than I expected), I’m sure I’ll be the one knocking on the door of running screaming “Let me in!  You’ve been a jerk but I love you anyway!”  

While I’m injured, please be patient with me as this “running blog” will feature posts that will discuss more of my cross training activities than actual running.  If there’s one good thing that has come out of these injuries, it is that it’s pushing me to become a triathlete ahead of schedule!

Seeing Red

Tuesday, 20 May 2008  |  Therapy + Injury

After my track run with Coach and Annie yesterday, I looked up at the red sky, changed into my red shirt, and drove home in my red car. Kissed my red husband good morning and woke up my two little red kids. I showered and saw my red self in the mirror. All I saw was red yesterday because I was the raging bull again.

Grrrrr…my injury is back…

I am not entirely sure it’s the same evil knee pain that is rearing its ugly head again. The pain is not on the knee itself but behind the right knee near my hamstrings. Coach says as long as it’s not the knee, then we are fine. I am hoping he’s right.

Trying to look at the bright side. Telling myself that all I need is more stretching (not that I’m lacking in this area because I believe I’m stretching all throughout the day) since I barely did anything while I was sick.

So, I am in full battle mode this week:

  • Monday (yesterday): Morning run/ Afternoon weights
  • Tuesday: Morning pilates/ Afternoon run hills
  • Wednseday: Morning run/ Afternoon bikram yoga

…and let’s see how it goes from there. Hopefully, I’ll be able to run Doc Fit sans any pain. If that doesn’t happen, this raging bull will just get even more furious.

Yoga & Pilates for Runners

Saturday, 3 May 2008  |  Therapy + Injury

“Everyone knows running is great for the cardiovascular system; however, it’s also a fact that the sport dramatically tightens certain muscle groups while doing nothing for others.”

– Bender Birch

Couldn’t agree with you more, Mr. Birch!

For the longest time now, I’ve been interested in trying yoga or pilates to stretch these tight muscles of mine (especially my ITBs which is the reason for my runner’s knee), but I never got the chance to attend a session.

Fortunately, I have Annie as my friend and running buddy who, many of you may not know, is also a certified yoga and pilates instructor. So, this week, she generously introduced me to both:


Yoga is an ancient discipline which seeks to unite body, mind, and spirit. Some of the more popular schools of yoga nowadays include Iyengar, Astanga, Ananda, Anusara, Bikram, Kundalini and Sivananda. Yoga sessions are contemplative and free-flowing. Runners can stand to gain from yoga since it develops strength, flexibility, balance and mental concentration.

After running at the track with Coach and Annie, we headed over to the mediation area for some stretching. Annie then took pity on my tight legs and began to teach me yoga positions that I could do at home. I loved the stretches. Yes, some positions made me cringe with slight discomfort (because we were reaching areas in my body that were never exercised heehee) but it certainly helped to make my legs feel lighter and immediately put me into relax mode.


– I am the most inflexible person I know. It’s not funny. –


– Why Annie never gets injured –


Pilates is designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body. Created by Joseph Pilates, it is a gentle low-impact exercise that focuses on developing the core muscles of the body, or what they like to call the “powerhouse.” Movements are precise and ordered, with reps and sets.

Pilates is also great for runners as it focuses on core strength, which is important to runners especially for long runs. Like yoga, pilates improves flexibility, concentration, balance and coordination, breathing, and helps prevent injuries in running.

Yesterday, Annie and I were supposed to attend a Bikram Yoga class together. As the class didn’t push through, she invited me to a free Pilates trial session instead. As soon as I got over her quick transformation from “crazy friend” to “serious instructor”, I was able to feel the effects of Pilates on my body. Using the machines, I felt the burning sensation in my arms and legs and knew that the exercises were working wonders. (It worked so well, in fact, that I passed on running today with Coach because my entire body was sore from yesterday’s workout!)


Initially, I thought that both were similar and I had to choose between one or the other. I’ve come to realize that a runner can gain different benefits from both. Now, if only I had all the time (and moolah because these can be quite expensive) to indulge in the two!

* Reference: NYRR Complete Book of Running & Fitness, Gloria Averbuch, New York, 2004