How Trigger-Point Needling Could Fix My Knee Injury

knee painFour years ago, I undramatically injured my knee while running. I say “undramatically” because nothing catastrophic happened. I didn’t fall, I didn’t twist it, I didn’t land funny. It just started hurting. I figured for sure a few days of rest and I’d be back on my feet.

That was four years ago and while I’m back on my feet, I’m certainly not back on my running feet. After walk/run/hobbling a two-mile final leg of a triathlon three months ago my knee unsurprinsingly flared up. What was suprising was that it didn’t un-flare. I rested, iced, and waited, but it never quite got back to feeling normal. In a desperate last-ditch effort, I went to one more doctor to have it checked out. I crossed my fingers that they’d come up with some magic answer to fix my knee, but I didn’t hold breath. I’d been down this road before.

But maybe, just maybe, childishly crossing my fingers did the trick. The new doc quickly diagnosed me with a lateral meniscal tear and a misplaced femur. In the month and a half that I’ve been seeing the new doctor, we’ve fixed the femur alignment part. Despite her best efforts, we just can’t seem to get past the knee pain.

In her final play before she throws in the white flag and sends me back for more MRIs and imaging work (which would likely lead to surgery), she’s pulling out a wild card: trigger-point needling.

Trigger-point dry needling is a technique used to break up myofascial trigger points in skeletal muscle using intramuscular stimulation. Trigger points are areas of knotted, tense, and tight muscle which are “hyperirritable” and can cause localized or deferred pain. (For example, I have a trigger point in the middle of my thigh that’s likely causing a lot of my knee pain — that’s deferred pain.) The dry needling technique uses acupuncture-like needles that (supposedly) don’t hurt upon insertion. It actually isn’t likely to hurt at all as long as the muscle is healthy. If the muscle isn’t healthy and has trigger points, the needles cause a twitching and possible pain sensation as they work their magic in releasing those tight areas.

The hope is that this loosens things up enough that she can really work out the kinks and send me on my way to recovery without anything more invasive than a couple of needles. It’s supposed to hurt, but if it works, what’s a little more pain?

If I weren’t so fed up with the pain and the inability to run (my source of enjoyment and serious stress-relief), I might be nervous. My doctor showed me the bruises from her latest trigger-point needling treatment. Beyond bruising, you can feel extremely sore and even “loopy” after treatment. Apparently it can even make you tired, nauseas, and emotional. Oh joy.

Well, here goes nothing.


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