Chronic injuries are often paired with a gauntlet of treatments—physical therapy, trigger point massage, acupuncture, cortisone shots, and for the unlucky ones, surgery—to help keep athletes (recreational or elite) comfortably competing in the sports and activities that they love. Some folks seeking long-term pain solutions without going under the knife may be more open to seemingly extreme measures of treatment, including a less widely known form of therapy called dry needling. Haven’t heard of it? Neither have most people.
In the U.S., only five percent of physical therapists are trained in the technique, which uses acupuncture needles to quickly and repeatedly jab hard-to-reach trigger points that are often considered the root causes of injuries, including tendonitis, back pain, and neck pain. If that sounds painful, that’s because it usually is. But this pain often leads to great gains for people who have struggled for years with overly tight tendons or nerve pain.
A pioneer in dry needling and pain treatment, Canadian physician Chan Gunn, M.D., developed this method called Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) about three decades ago to combat myofascial pain syndromes in the musculoskeletal system. In other words, Gunn’s unique process was designed to tackle the nagging injuries that don’t show up on MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays, and always feel impossible to treat.
“Doctors used to inject lidocaine into the trig…