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. 

Do You Eat More When You Don’t Run?

Tuesday, 6 January 2009  |  Healthy Food + Recipes

I do.  Definitely.

Some eat more after a long run, or after a race, or after speedwork.  Not me.  I eat more when I’m not running at all.  When I’m training properly, I feel healthier so I naturally lean towards better food choices.  

When I can’t run, it seems like my hands are compelled to grab unto something, anything (e.g., Cheetos jalapeno flavor) to make up for the lack of movement in the legs.  The hands and fingers then coordinate—as my feet and legs would do the same when I run—to plop that digestible form of matter unto my mouth for quick consumption.

What’s most worrisome is that, due to my sheer depression from the lack of runs, I don’t even notice the food sliding down my throat and building a home in the comfort of my own tummy.  Usually, I’m watching a DVD, surfing the web, or dining with family when I suddenly have that overstuffed, bloated, I-want-to-vomit feeling and I think Uh oh, I’ve had more than enough again.  Then, panic creeps in, with the next thought: Shoot, how will I burn this if I can’t run?

Needless to say, that is exactly what I was telling myself last night as I stood on the dreaded weighing scale: Shoot, how do I lose the weight I gained over the holidays?  Why did I have to impose that 7-day running ban on myself? Maybe it’s time to break the ban?!!

Fortunately, I paid my favorite PT a visit at Moro Lorenzo this morning. (He’s my favorite because he’s the only guy who cured me of my shin splints and this he did literally overnight.)  After teaching me new drills to strengthen my quads and pull my kneecap inward, and as he poked at my ITB with long, scary needles, he nonchalantly told me that I should just continue with my training.  What?  No need for my 7-day ban?  It was music to my ears.  Woohoo!

I tried my best to keep my composure, even under so much pain, but deep inside I was already thinking of where I should run next, with whom, and what healthy meal I should be having for dinner.  Goodbye leftover Christmas treats.  It’s time for some salad!