Trigger Point Dry Needling

If you’ve been reading for a while, you may recall that I have had chronic achilles tendonitis for the past 10 years or so. It kept me from running for a long time, until I decided it wasn’t going to anymore. I tried to be super smart about it–I only run 3 times per week (most weeks), and try to never run consecutive days. My body just doesn’t particularly like it, so I try to thank it for putting up with me and carrying me to a few finish lines. I also try to ice every day that I run, and for a while my body was holding up great, but when I started to feel more significant pain, I started going to physical therapy.

You may remember when I wrote my post about the Astym. Let me tell you, that was fun. Every session I was like “KT, do I get astym today?!?! She would be like “Calm down, Ari. I know you love astym, but sometimes my soft, gentle calf massages are so much better.” Yeah, astym is not fun and it is super painful, and so are KT’s massages, but it really was helping. The last time I got it done, I was whining and crying like a pathetic baby taking it like a champ, and one of the other therapists suggested I get the dry needling. He said it would hurt less than astym. Ummmm, you want to stick needles into my legs and shake them around?!?!?! I politely said no thank you, and have skirted the subject ever since.

I’d actually been considering it a little bit since. They explained that it’s essentially like hitting the “reset” button on a muscle that has been tight for a significant amount of time and hasn’t been cured with massage and foam rolling. My calves have two settings–tight, and ridiculously tight. Finally yesterday as KT was massaging and said “You need a needle in here!” I nervously agreed.

They handed me a special consent form, and I immediately got even more nervous!

One of the risks is lung puncture. I mean, I’m no anatomy expert, but that sounds basically impossible while needling my calf. However, it still scared me! I signed, and tried to prepare myself. I begged KT and Ashley to hold my hand, but KT was on photography duty and Ashley, well, Ashley our friendship is over. Except when I need you to make me run fast. Then we can be friends again 😉

Matt explained that he would be putting the needle in four different spots. He also told all sorts of awesome jokes like saying “Oh I’m so glad I finally get to do this on someone!” Great, Matt. Thanks for that.

The first one actually didn’t hurt at all! I barely felt it. He asked how I was doing and I was like “Great!” Hah. You see, it’s not the actual needle going in that hurts–it’s kind of similar to acupuncture where the needle is really thin, but this one isn’t hollow. The part that hurts is when they shake it around in there. The first spot was on the outside of my calf which is less sensitive. Then they did one in the middle and all of the sudden it felt like a charlie horse! Holy crap. It was not fun. The third one was even worse! I asked for a little break before the 4th one, because it was rough at this point. They basically make your leg muscles spasm, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t find that to be the most pleasant feeling.

The last one was so weird! It was down closer to my achilles and it made it feel like my foot was asleep! You know the spidery tingling feeling when you stop on your foot when it’s asleep? That happened and it freaked me out! They said it as normal, and before I knew it, I was done. If it works nearly as well as they say it will, it’ll definitely be worth it in the end. The only other part that is less than fun (other than, you know, the 4-5 more weeks I have of this) is how sore I was yesterday! They warned me that I would be, but you know that feeling when you’ve had really bad charlie horses during the night, and the next day your calf is so sore that it’s hard to walk? Is that just me? Anyway, that’s how it felt. You should have seen my trying to teach choreography. Yikes.

Have you ever experienced TDN? Any other crazy physical therapy or other medical things?? I think things like this are so interesting, and I’m always curious to know what other people have experienced!


  1. says

    Hey girl. You are tough! I had the astym even wrote about it and took those lovely pictures with me having bruises all over my legs. I actually gave it a bad review but it really does depend on the person. I vote not for me. I was supposed to have the dry needling but since i stopped going it never happened.
    You are tough!

    • Ari says

      Maybe? I can’t say for sure, but if you have specific trigger points along your IT band that are causing you problems, then I would think so. It’s not pleasant, so you may want to wait until I’ve gone through the entire series and see if it helps before you decide to go that route :)

  2. says

    I LOVE dry needling! How sick is that? I get it at PT a few times a week, and it is SO effective! Just go for it, Lindsay! I get mine done on my IT band and my gluteus medius. I love your blog, Ari!

    • Ari says

      You love dry needling?!?! Yes, that is TOTALLY SICK!!! Hahaha–you are tough! Thanks girl, I love yours too and it was so wonderful to meet you! :)

  3. T says

    Just had my first experience with dry needling this past week. Didn’t love the needles but loved the outcome and the fact that I could run again. Only problem is I think I went back at it too soon. My Achilles hurts all over again, but I only had one treatment. I’m sure after a couple the “reset” button will be all good to go.

  4. mel says

    Thank you for putting your experience online!! I’ve been going through dry needling for twice a week for chronic lower back pain. I am now on week three going I really hate this…. is it worth it? Reading your story makes me think I can do this, I just have to be patient with myself.

  5. Sue says

    Did the dry needling resolve your issue? I have chronic tendinitis and am considering this treatment. Would like to know how this turned out for you. Thanks!

    • Ari says

      Yes!! Sometimes it flares back up and I need to go back in, but it is literally the only thing that ever worked for me! If you want to talk more about it, send me an email and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have. I know the feeling and it is the worst!

  6. Sue says

    I did start dry needling 2 weeks ago. It wasn’t as horrible was I thought it would be. It was just uncomfortable and slightly achy afterwards but my Achilles felt better slightly a few days later. I had another session 4 days ago and again I can feel it is working. I have been wearing a cam boot since early May (3 months) and every time I try to start walking without it the pain would return. Last week I started wearing shoes 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon to slowly start getting out of the boot. Amazingly no pain so far. I’ve been increasing the time out of the boot every few days. My PT said yesterday that after three months of 2 times a week I might be finished with PT because my leg is recovering now quickly. Interesting I have been seeing a PT who just does ultrasound, rolling my Achilles with a bar to stimulate blood flow and puts anti inflammatory ion patches on my Achilles. That’s been the treatment for 3 month with little improvement. I finally did some research to see if I had any other options and found the info on dry needling and went to a PT who does the treatment. So glad I did since it is working. My insurance won’t cover it but I’d pay anything not to have another Achilles surgery like I have had on my other foot. Your experience gave me the confidence to try it. How soon were you able to run without pain? Just curious how often it flares up and, if it does, does another needling make it go away again quickly or do you go through a few week recovery time. By the way, if the doesn’t work I am going to look into PRP injections at Emory University. Again, not covered by insurance but worth a try if your desperate. Another option I have heard about is shock wave therapy. Again, most insurance companies don’t cover it but worth a try if you are desperate. Thank you! Sue

    • Ari says

      I feel like it was about a month before I realized it was working. I didn’t generally get pain while running, I just could barely walk after, and one day I was walking around and realized NOTHING HURT. It was amazing! So glad to hear you’ve had a good experience! Mine still flares up when I do a lot of hill work, and I’ve been back in twice for a tune up of sorts, but nothing like before! Also figuring out my other muscle imbalances and tightness has really been a game changer!

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