Spring is here and you’re eager to get back to exercising outside. Whether its running, bicycling, shooting hoops in your driveway, or just talking long walks, your muscles and bones will benefit. Muscle tightness, though, can derail your best exercise efforts and sideline you if you’re not careful. But, now there’s a new procedure that many sports medicine doctors are using to treat over-training athletes. It can also benefit you as well…
Functional Needling Relieves Tight Muscle Knots
If you’ve ever lost sleep with a tight, kinked neck, or shoulders, from lifting too heavy weights; or developed tight thigh and hip muscles from running without stretching first, you know the unique pain that muscle knots bring.
When muscles develop tight kinks like these, they usually squeeze nearby nerves which can cause moderate to severe pain. Usually, soaking in a warm Epsom salts bath, or whirlpool, massage, along with taking muscle relaxants, or magnesium, helps to loosen up these tight muscle kinks.
But now, sports medicine practitioners are making use of a brand new way of loosening these muscle knots much more quickly. They’re using a technique called functional muscle twitching that’s a little like acupuncture and electrical muscle stimulation. It involves inserting a very fine needle, much like those used in acupuncture, into kinked muscle trigger points. The objective is to cause the muscle to twitch. Getting the muscle to move, helps the muscle work the kink out on its own, thereby relieving the pain.
Tight muscle kinks usually occur from inadequate stretching before lifting weights, using too heavy weights, or before running, or doing pushing/ pulling, or overhead exercise movements. They can also be caused by deficits, or weak spots, in your musculoskeletal system from inadequate whole body exercise.
If you tend to do the same exercises over and over, you’re gaining strength in some muscles while weakening the other lesser used ones. In addition, you could be over-using, over-straining, over-exercising muscles from too much repetitive use. The most common areas of muscles to kink up are in the neck, shoulders, hips, quadriceps, and ankles. But, these kinks can occur in any weak muscle that suddenly gets forced into focused use. As long as they have a trigger point (most muscles do), they can be successfully treated with functional needling.
During the treatment, the needle gets inserted into the tight muscle’s trigger point. This causes it to twitch repetitively which may feel a little unnerving because of the rapid movement. Yet, this very movement causes the muscle to loosen up and straighten out, releasing compressed nerves and pain. Most patients experience release of their tight muscles overnight.
Functional needling has become a big hit amongst professional athletes but you can get your muscle kinks “needled” too. Look for sports medicine clinics, or Kinetacore practitioners, in your area that offer the dry needling procedure (see link at end).
Avoid Tight Muscle Kinks, Stretches and Strains
The best way to avoid needing professional treatment for tight muscle kinks, over-stretched muscles and strains, is to do 2 things: Stretching and Whole Body Exercise.
1. Stretch adequately. This means stretching not only the muscles that you’ll be using in the exercise you want to do, but all your muscles. It’s a good idea to also do a set of these after your weight lifting or aerobic exercise. Good stretching exercises include:
a. Quadriceps stretch. Use a wall, or chair, for balance if you need. Pull one leg up by your foot, so that your knee bends toward the floor and your foot points upward. Then switch to your other leg. Repeat 3 times.
b. Hamstring stretch. Standing straight, step forward with your left foot, then bend forward from your hips keeping your back flat. Keeping bending slowly forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg from the mid thigh down through the calves. Repeat a set of 3.
c. Chest and shoulder stretch. This can be done sitting or standing. Clasp your hands behind your back and raise your hands/arms slowly. You should feel a stretch in your shoulders and chest. Repeat a set of 3.
d. Upper back. Sitting or standing, join your hands together in front of you, and bend slightly forward from your waist, so your back rounds. Start to press your arms away from your body. You should feel tensing around your elbows and inner arm, and stretching in your upper arms and back. Repeat a set of 3.
e. Biceps stretch. Sitting, raise your arms out to each side, with your hands in a fist, and your thumb pointing upward. Then, turn your arms downward, so that your thumb points downward. You should feel a stretch in the top parts of your arms, the biceps. Repeat a set of 10.
f. Shoulder stretch. Standing or sitting, extend one arm out in front of you. Use your opposite arm to grab beneath the outstretched arm with your fist/wrist. Then pull the outstretched arm slowly to the side with your opposite wrist. You should feel a stretch in the upper arm being pulled across and the shoulder on that side. Repeat on the opposite side, set of 3.
g. Side stretch. You cans it or stand for this one. Join your hands together overhead and bend to one side then back to the other. You should feel a stretch along each of your upper sides down through your waist. Repeat a set of 10.
h. Triceps stretch. Sitting or standing, raise both arms over your head with your elbows bent. With the opposite hand, gently pull back on one elbow to feel a stretch in the under arm, triceps area. Repeat on both sides, a set of 3.
2. Whole Body Exercise. After stretching, do aerobic exercise that engages your entire body. This helps prevent any one set of muscles getting over-worked, and overly tight. If you like to run, on an opposite day do exercise that includes more of your upper body like rowing or TRX. Playing basketball, soccer, or swimming, are good whole body aerobic exercise as they engage all your muscles. If you’re using free weights, or weight machines, don’t repeat the same exercise routine over and over. Change up exercises, and machines, and be sure to give equal time to all your muscles.
Mark Bromson, M.D.
Functional Dry Needling Twitches Knots Away, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140929141058.htm
Functional Dry Needling Practitioners, http://www.kinetacore.com/physical-therapy/therapists.php?searchloc=florida+&Submit=Go+%9B&cat_num=62