Dry Needling

Also known as Western acupuncture, dry needling involves the insertion of small acupuncture needles into specific trigger points to relieve muscle pain. It can trace its origins back 2,000 years to China and somewhat corresponds with traditional Chinese acupuncture points. Therapists either leave the needles in for up to 15 minutes or “thread” them in and out of the trigger point. The treatment protocol is usually in the range of four to six visits over the course of two to three weeks.

Physical therapist John Perry, of Perry Physical Therapy,  uses dry needling to help relieve tight muscles, and encourage the body’s natural healing response by disrupting the tissue and bringing more blood flow to the injured area.   Dry needling is a relatively non-invasive procedure that is available at Perry Physical Therapy. The treatment is very low risk, and most discomfort will be fleeting. “It also doesn’t require much time, so patients can find relief quickly.”

Cupping Therapy – Myofascial Decompression

Do you remember seeing athletes during the 2016 Summer Olympics with dark circular bruises on their arms and back? Most notably, American swimmer Michael Phelps was seen with these spots on his shoulders and upper back. News outlets, such as the NY Times and BBC, began questioning what the athletes had done to create these bizarre bruises. It turns out Michael Phelps and other Olympic athletes had been using cupping therapy, an ancient form of traditional Eastern medicine that has gained mainstream attention and grown in popularity over the past few years.

Cupping therapy, sometimes known as myofascial decompression, is a form of Eastern medicine that has gained popularity in the Western world in recent years. The earliest accounts of cupping can be dated back to 1550 BC. Cupping therapy involves using cups, placed on the skin to form an airtight seal. This seal lifts the skin from the underlying tissues to promote blood flow to the area. In Western medicine, cupping has been used as a complementary medicine to treat pain. As cupping therapy gains popularity, it is more and more being incorporated into physical therapy practice as another tool for pain relief of a variety of musculoskeletal disorders.

The cup (glass, plastic, silicone, or similar material) is applied to the skin and negative pressure is created within the cup by either heating the inside or using a hand pump to create a vacuum seal. Once the suction is created between the cup and the skin, the cups are left on the skin for approximately 3-5 minutes. The suctioning effect of cupping lifts the skin from the tissues underneath and allows for release of the fascia and muscles below. In addition, the lifting effect also allows for improved blood flow to the area, bringing nutrients to the site and transports waste materials away.

Cupping allows for increased blood flow and oxygen to reach affected area, which can help with muscle relaxation. This treatment can be beneficial in reducing trigger points, improving myofascial tissue tension, and reducing pain. Cupping therapy may cause bruising, discomfort, or soreness. The bruises from cupping can last for a few days or a week after a treatment session.

Would Cupping Be Beneficial for Me?

Cupping therapy can be utilized as a component of and compliment to physical therapy treatment to help improve pain. While further research is necessary to investigate the long-term effects of cupping, studies have shown that it has been able to effectively reduce pain. Studies have also shown that cupping therapy, paired with traditional physical therapy treatments and exercise can help to improve pain and function. Cupping therapy is a safe and effective treatment when performed by a trained professional. If you are interested in cupping, talk with John Perry, Physical Therapist at Perry Physical Therapy to see if it is a good option for you!

Conditions that Cupping May Help

  • Musculoskeletal Pain
  • Neck Pain
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Back Pain
  • Knee Pain
  • Myofascial tissue tension
  • Skin Adhesions and Scar tissue

Contraindications for Cupping Therapy

Cupping is not recommended for patients with certain conditions. These include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Metastatic Cancer
  • Fracture

In addition, the cups cannot be placed over areas of deep vein thrombosis (DVT, i.e. blood clots), arteries, or areas where a pulse can be felt.

Gua sha Scraping

Gua sha is a natural, alternative therapy that involves scraping your skin with a massage tool to improve your circulation. This ancient Chinese healing technique may offer a unique approach to better health, addressing issues like chronic pain.

In Gua sha, the therapist scrapes your skin with short or long strokes to stimulate microcirculation of the soft tissue, which increases blood flow. They make these strokes with a smooth-edged instrument known as a Gua massage tool. The therapist applies massage oil to your skin, and then uses the tool to repeatedly scrape your skin in a downward motion.

Gua sha is intended to address stagnant energy, called chi, in the body that practitioners believe may be responsible for inflammation. Inflammation is the underlying cause of several conditions associated with chronic pain. Rubbing the skin’s surface is thought to help break up this energy, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.

Gua sha is generally performed on a person’s back, buttocks, neck, arms, and legs. A gentle version of it is even used on the face as a facial technique. Your therapist may apply mild pressure, and gradually increase intensity to determine how much force you can handle.

What are the benefits of gua sha?

Gua sha is used to  reduce inflammation, so it’s often used to treat ailments that cause chronic pain, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, as well as those that trigger muscle and joint pain.

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