"When challenged, your body will default to what it’s used to doing. Make your combat stance your everyday stance!" Kelly Starrett
In the past week I’ve had two CrossFit athlete patients here in Atlanta that have been dealing with chronic lower back related pain. Both of these patients had injures that started with high volume squatting. One of them was doing high volume loaded squats and the other was doing high volume body weight squats.
Both of these guys have jobs where they sit for a living, meaning they are what we call executive athletes. This position typically keeps the hip at around 90* for a long period of time and can drive the hip slightly forward compared to the optimal position. It’s hard to expect that you can keep your hip at 90* for 8 hours everyday and then magically have that extra range be there when you head to the gym to workout.
The human body is the greatest cheater in the world. We will get from point A to point B with good or bad movement. As long as we complete the task our body thinks it's successful. The truth is we can only buffer bad movement for a while and then it turns into an injury.
Here’s a general rule of thumb. For every hour you sit you should be putting in 4 minutes of mobility work to your hips, ankles and/or upper back to help offset that time in a sitting position. So if you sit 8 hours, you owe yourself 32 minutes of mobility work! Damn, that’s a long time right. True it is, but our body adjusts to the positions we put ourself in the most. You have to offset some of the damage you are doing from prolonged periods of sitting.
Lets put this 32 minutes of mobility into perspective. Most of us love Game of Thrones, it’s an awesome show. It runs about an hour and we have no problem making time in our busy schedule to see who’s going to be killed off this week or if the dwarf will ever catch a break. Why is it so hard for us to dedicate half of the amount of time of watching Game of Thrones to improving and helping our only body with recovery?
You have to prioritize your own body. You can buy a lot of nice cars over your lifetime and swamp them out whenever you want the newer model. You never get a chance to swap your body out for the new model. You might as well take care of your only vehicle in life, your body!
When I bring up the technique of Performance Dry Needling with my clients in the Atlanta area I get a few common reactions. They either cringe, immediately start to sweat or nervously ask what I'm talking about. All of these reactions will depend on your fear level with needles or if you have ever had dry needling techniques performed on you in the past. I’m going to give my most simple summary of the technique and how it works. I also want to make one bold statement. The technique of Performance Dry Needling is hands down the most effective treatment option we have at Athletes’ Potential! Hopefully after reading this article you will have a better understanding of why we like it so much and what you can expect.
Is Dry Needling The Same As Acupuncture?
Absolutely not! I am not an acupuncturist. I am a physical therapist with advanced training in the technique of dry needling and developed my own variation of the technique called Performance Dry Needling. Acupuncture is a very old and well respected practice that targets meridian lines in the body. The intent of acupuncture is to restore balance in the body by targeting specific points that match up with the meridian lines. This treatment could be for musculoskeletal pain or even internal sickness such as gut irritation. I have had many clients get great results with chronic pain issues when going in for acupuncture treatment. One of the only similarities that dry needling has with acupuncture is the actual needles that are used in the technique.
Dry needling is much more of an anatomical approach, meaning we focus on treating specific muscles, tendons, ligaments or nerves. There are also specific areas in the muscles that tighten up called trigger points. This can happen for a number of reasons but we know that treating these areas with dry needling is very effective. I don’t know much about chi and meridian lines. I do know a lot about the anatomy of the human body and that is what guides the choice for where to perform dry needling.
Picture courtesy of www.marylebonephysio.com
How Did Performance Dry Needling Come About?
Performance Dry Needling started with my work with the 25th Infantry Division Best Ranger Competition Teams as well as CrossFit 808’s Competition Team. I wanted to see if I could use the dry needling techniques that I had been using successfully with my clients that were injured and transition those techniques to a competitive group. Both of these groups of athletes put in huge volumes of training and push their bodies to the limit. With high volumes of training comes increased risk for injury. Performance Dry Needling was the solution to help with increased recovery and to help these athletes maintain better movement during their competitions. By targeting specific muscles, tendons and ligaments with needles and the Marc Pro Recovery Unit, we were able to dramatically increase recovery. Recover faster, train harder and win more often!
Picture courtesy of www.army.mil
Does Dry Needling Hurt?
Simply put yes it's uncomfortable but so does laying on a lacrosse ball for a few minutes! Everyone tolerates this technique differently depending on their fear of needles, pain tolerance and severity of injury. The technique is made as painless as possible but soreness can linger for 1-2 days after the treatment. You can also expect significant changes in mobility, decrease in pain and increase in performance after the treatment.
Where Does Dry Needling Work The Best?
In my experience dry needling has the greatest effect on the spine. This is the one area I treat the most no matter if your pain is in your actual spine or your knee. Our body often refers pain to our arms and legs from issues starting at the spine. Think of Performance Dry Needling to the spine as a reset to the muscles that are treated. If you have a problem with your computer what tends to fix it, the restart! We can help get muscles functioning better around the spine which has a significant effect on your overall performance.
If you want to know some of the more advanced physiology of why dry needling works so well please read Sue Falsone’s recent article. She’s a phenomenal physical therapist and recently started teaching her own variation of dry needling call Systemic Dry Needling. Can't wait to go to one of her seminars and learn some new techniques!
Have you had any type of dry needling treatment before? If so share your experience, I'd love to hear your response to the treatment in the comments below.
Dr. Danny and Dr. Jackie's views on performance improvement, injury prevention and sometimes other random thoughts.