Alpine Sports Medicine brings dry needling to Park City
Right away, Janna Mann wants to make one thing clear: It’s not the same as acupuncture.
Mann is a physical therapist at Alpine Sports Medicine, which is helping pioneer the practice of dry needling in Utah. And while the process looks a bit like acupuncture, the two treatments have little else in common.
"Everything else, as to my goals and why I’m needling, where I apply it, is different," she said. "We use the same tool but in a very different way and for very different reasons."
With dry needling, physical therapists target knotty tissue in a patient’s muscles. After the treatment, the muscle relaxes and experiences increased oxygenation. The end result is less pain and greater range of motion, Mann explains.
"It’s almost if that part of the muscle is permanently contracted, while the rest of the muscle is relaxed," Mann said. "We take the needle and we target those trigger points, with the idea to get it to reset. It’s like pressing ‘Control+Alt+Delete’ on the computer."
The practice recently became approved in the state of Utah. But Andrea Terwillegar, co-owner of Alpine Sports Medicine, said therapists have been dry needling in Colorado and Wyoming in recent years and have seen consistently positive results. With Alpine receiving requests for the service, Mann decided to become certified in the practice.
Alpine began performing dry needling on patients about a month ago, and Mann said it has been well-received so far.
"It’s really exciting," she said. "I’m always looking for something to improve the outlook for my patients — get them back to what they want to do quicker, better than they were before. I’m really pumped about it. I mean, you ask anyone in here, and they’re sick of hearing me talk about it."
One positive aspect of dry needling is that it fits in with Alpine’s overall philosophy of physical therapy. And rather than revolutionize treatment, it serves as another tool at a therapist’s disposal.
"It’s important that we treat it as just a part of physical therapy," Mann said, "but the improved feel of the tissue — less restriction, increased range of motion, improvements in how people move — I’ve seen all of it so far."
With so many residents being active, Mann said the Park City area is the perfect place to help pioneer dry needling in Utah.
"Everybody in this town has some sort of injury," she said. "I mean, It’s a rite of passage when you’ve passed through X,Y,Z’s orthopedic office. ‘Who’s your physical therapist?’ is sometimes a common question asked."
Terwillegar said the biggest challenge with dry needling has been the fact that not every insurance company pays for it. Though most do, others haven’t even heard of it, so the process of ensuring that dry needling is an option for all patients is ongoing.
"We’re trying to figure all of that out," she said.
And as for the other factor that might inhibit someone from trying dry needling — the pain — Mann said it’s not much of an issue, describing the sensation as a deep cramping in the muscle, rather than a needle prick.
"It (doesn’t hurt) like getting the flu shot," she said.
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