Lower Limb Dry Needling

John Charles

/ Podiatrist

I’m sure you’ve all probably experienced some form of muscle tightness before, during or after running. Often this can be felt as a knot or lump in the muscle with associated pain or tightness. Just have a feel of your calf muscles and I’m sure you will be able to find a sore spot or two!

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Identifying and treating these trigger points is common practice for many different health professionals including physios, myotherapists and podiatrists. Treatment may include massage, active release therapies and exercise recommendations. I commonly use a therapy called dry needling in my work so today I’m going to talk about how it can help in the treatment of runners.

What is Dry Needling?

Dry Needling involves locating tender trigger points and inserting a very thin sterile needle into them. This disrupts the trigger point and breaks the physiological pain/trauma cycle that is occurring. This will release and relax the previously shortened muscle fibres back to their resting state. Sometimes a twitch of the muscle will be felt and, at times, an instant sense of relaxation. Sometimes this effect can be more gradual.

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How can Dry Needling help you?

My management focuses on achieving efficient and pain-free movement. Irritable trigger points are one factor that may inhibit this movement so addressing them can make a big difference.

Simply put, consider a painful trigger point in your calf muscle. This trigger point may inhibit the quality of the movements that the muscle contributes to – i.e. pointing the foot up or down. This trigger point may also cause pain with these movements. Being able to point your foot up and down (dorsiflex or plantarflex) is necessary to swing your leg whilst walking or running and absorb and push off to the next stride. The trigger point may restrict the movements or cause compensatory movements somewhere else. Either way – things aren’t functioning as well as they could be!

​​This is just one example but in practice dry needling can be used to improve muscle function in many places. The most common sites I needle are the calf muscles, peroneals (outside of the leg) and extensor muscles (front of the leg). Needling can even be used in the smaller foot muscles to help in the treatment of things like plantar fasciitis or forefoot pain.

The release from an effective needling treatment can significantly help with your movement, particularly if you are the kind of person who regularly gets tight or sore muscles. It can be used as a one off or on a regular basis in conjunction with other treatments.

It should be noted that needling is an invasive procedure requiring precision so should only be undertaken by a qualified professional.

So next time you are struggling with sore muscles, consider needling as a treatment to help with your movement!