Needles Help Patients Find Relief from Pain

URBANDALE, Iowa  --  Therapy can help people dealing with pain find relief, and therapists have another tool to help.

For Cheryl Lounsberry, pain seemed to be a way of life.

"In 2014, I took a suitcase when I was at a wedding in the Bahamas, held it up, and I felt something in my shoulder, but I thought I just pulled a muscle,” she said.

A few months ago, she finally went to the doctor and learned she had a torn rotator cuff.

"They said, 'you have options. You can go to therapy first and see how that works. Or, we can do surgery right away.'”

Instead of surgery, she came to Urbandale Sports Medicine Family Practice to try therapy. Physical therapist Kelan Krohe started her off with strengthening exercises. He then asked if she wanted to try something new. "Maybe the second or third day, he goes, I want to ask if you want to try this dry needling."

Krohe became certified in dry needling last May. He said the practice involves the same needles as acupuncture, but the application and reasons for doing it are different. "Basically it's the insertion of a needle into a muscle to stimulate the trigger points that are in the muscle,” he said. "The goal of it is trying to go after the neuromuscular system and resetting the system."

He's treated people with shoulder pain, low back pain, runners knee, and fibromyalgia. There isn't much recent research on effectiveness of dry needling, but Krohe said it helps. "There's not a holy grail treatment that works for everyone, but I would say after everybody I've done, there's a good 75-80% that do see benefit from it."

Dry needling has been around for years, but it's fairly new to Iowa for physical therapists.

"It is a great tool as a therapist to use in correlation with hands-on techniques, strengthening, working on functional mechanics," said Krohe.

It helped Lounsberry. She did dry needling ten times and now continues her exercises at home. She is enjoying her active life with a lot less pain.