Dry Needling
Ask anyone at the office: I’m the “can do” person. The table won’t move up or down? Ask Maggie. She can fix it. Window stuck? Ask Maggie. She can get it unstuck. Computer not behaving? Ask Maggie. She will get it running again. And, usually I can.

My dad’s lessons have helped me throughout my career as a physical therapist. With his lessons behind me, I could relate all therapy techniques as tools.

My dad was my teacher. He always told me that if you can read about it, you can usually do it—like cooking by using a cookbook. He spent time teaching me and my brothers all sorts of things, from painting to basic auto repair. A large part of that education was learning about tools. Which was a phillips head versus a straight screwdriver? The difference between an open-end and a box-end wrench? Or different types of pliers like needle nose and adjustable? Once I could identify them, he taught me the importance of using the right tool for the job. There were special tools used for only one purpose, like an oil filter wrench and some used for multiple purposes, such as a hammer. All of his teaching resulted in my keeping a toolbox with at least the basic tools at home and in my car.

My dad’s lessons have helped me throughout my career as a physical therapist. With his lessons behind me, I could relate all therapy techniques as tools. I learned the difference between them and the best time to use them, for which type of patient, and for which diagnosis. I graduated from physical therapy school equipped with a toolbox of basic therapy techniques.

I have expanded my collection of tools over the years. Some are now higher quality than the original ones and some are more specialized.
A more recent addition to my toolbox is Integrative Dry Needling. While this technique has been around for several decades and initially used to treat trigger points (localized muscle knots), I already had several ways to treat trigger points. After having a conversation with other therapists, I decided to learn more.

Integrative Dry Needling (IDN) has evolved from exclusively treating trigger points to include broader applications. IDN combines the targeting of specific muscles and the accompanying neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction. In other words, it allows me to consider the muscles and their nerves in treating pain and dysfunction. The needle insertion stimulates the nerves which can then reduce pain, and causes a local healing response in the painful tissue with the hope of restoring normal function.

This technique can help with soft tissue dysfunction including inflammation, tissue adhesion, swelling and pain, allowing me to use other manual techniques and exercise more effectively.

Adding the IDN “tool” to my toolbox gives me one more way to provide better care to my patients. And, perhaps just as importantly, I believe my dad would be proud of me for learning his lessons so well and continuing to maintain my toolbox.

~ Maggie Donohue, PT

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One thought on “Tools in the Toolbox: Dry Needling

  • December 30, 2018 at 7:17 am

    I just love this! The “tool box” concept is simple and yet profound. The right tool in the right situation is about specificity and individualisation in PT treatment. And your Dad would be proud !


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