Dry needling for plantar fasciitis and electrical dry needling (e-stim), has been performed to help alleviate the pain and symptoms associated with the condition, for a few years now.
There have also been some clinical tests conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the procedures, and it has been proven that they provide some added relief when used in conjuction with other methods.
We will now look more closely at those findings.
So What Is Dry Needling?
Dry Needling is a procedure that is carried out by a qualified physical therapist, and involves the insertion of thin needles into the trigger points of the affected plantar fascia tissue to provide pain relief and increased range of motion.
What Is Electrical Dry Needling?
Electro-Stimulation (E-Stim) or Electrical Dry Needling is when the inserted dry needles are connected to an electro-stimulation unit to increase blood flow and circulation, whilst providing an analgesic effect to reduce pain.
How Does Dry Needling Work?
The qualified physical therapist will insert thin needles into the affected areas of the foot. The needles cause light bleeding within the damaged tissue, sending signals to the body that the area requires healing, and so it increases blood flow to the area. The needles can also help to break up scar tissue within the area allowing for quicker healing.
Adding the electro-stimulation to the needles can help to speed up the process.
Is Dry Needling More Effective Than Other Treatment Methods?
A study was performed on plantar fasciitis patients, where half of the participents were given dry needling, and the others were given a sham needling placebo. The patients receiving the actual dry needling therapy, responded better to treatment than the plancebo patients, concluding that there are some benefits to be gained by using dry needling for plantar fasciitis. [Source] However, it has been said that dry needling is less effective as a sole form of treatment, and has a greater effect when used in conjunction with manual therapy and exercise.
“Studies show 95% success rate for Plantar Fasciitis that has not responded to standard treatments”
What Added benefit Does Adding Electro-Stimulation Have?
A study conducted using 10 physio therapists from the USA and patients from 6 different US States, concluded that:
The inclusion of electrical dry needling into a program of manual therapy, exercise and ultrasound was more effective for improving pain, function and related-disability than the application of manual therapy, exercise and ultrasound alone, in individuals with PF at mid-term (3 months). [Source]
Are There Risks Involved With Dry Needling Treatment
Although there can be some mild, and usually short term side effects with dry needling, it is regarded that these are outweighed by the benefits provided from having the procedure.
Some of these side effects include:
- Needle Stick Pain as needle is inserted
- Allergic reaction to sterile wipes or anesthesia (if used)
- Mild discomfort or pain for a couple of days after treatment
- Slight chance of increasing damage resulting in plantar fascia tear or rupture.
- Slight chance of post procedure infection of the injection site.
What Are The Benefits Of Dry Needling For Plantar Fasciitis?
Dry needling is a relatively non invasive procedure that can be carried out by any phiysical therapist trained in the procedure. The benefits include:
- Cheaper and less invasive than surgery
- Relieves pain better than using manual therapy and exercise alone.
- Increase range of motion better than using manual therapy and exercise alone
- Can be performed in the home by qualified physical therapist.
- Effects can last for months (although longer term studies have not yat been conducted)
Is Dry Needling The Same As Acupuncture?
Although the procedures are very similar, acupuncture is an ancient chinese practice that deals with the flow of “chi” or energy within the body and will be performed by an acupuncturist.
Dry needling deals with range of motion within the muscles of the body and will be performed by a physical therapist.
There is a great deal of contention between the acupuncture and physical therapy communities as they try to differentiate between the procedures.
Acupunturists claim that dry needling is just another name for acupuncture and that they feel physical therapists should require further training to perform the procedure. However, physical therapists claim that it is different and falls inder their current training.
Can Any Physical Therapist Perform Dry Needling For Plantar Fasciitis?
No, and you will need to research within your own state or country to find out if the procedure can even be performed. Laws vary within the different states of the USA as well as in different countries.
- Some states within the USA that do not allow dry needling to be performed.
- Some states allow the procedure to be performed by a physical therapist provided they have undertaken suitable training
- Some states allow physical therapists to perform the procedure without the need for any further training.
If you find that you are allowed to have dry needling performed within your location, it is most adviseable to ensure that the person doing the procedure has undertaken some training within the field of dry needling.
Is There A Way That Dry Needling Can Be Done In The Home?
The dry needling and electro-stimulation units are usually fully portable and so could be brought to your home for treatment provided your physical therapist was willing to do house calls.
Can I Use Electro Stimulation Without Dry Needling?
If you do not fancy having a stranger stick needles into your already painful foot, you can look into hiring or buying a TENS machine which will simulate a similar practice.
Equally, if dry needling is not allowed in your location, a tens machine could be an alternative method of therapy to add to your daily recovery program.
The tens machine can be attached to your foot and calf with electrodes. Different degrees of stimulation can be provided and will help to increase blood flow and circulation to the area.
Although it is not a cure in itself, much like the dry needling, the use of a tens machine is meant to compliment your recovery alongside your normal manual therapy stretching and exercise routines.
Also a tens machine is a cheaper option to begin with to see if you respond to the electro-stimulation process before investing in several dry needling sessions with a physical therapist.
Manual Therapy, Exercise & Dry Needling Combined
As has been shown from the clinical studies that have been performed, the best results are produced when dry needling and electro stimulation are combined with your usual manual therapy exercise and stretching routines.
If you find that you are not seeing the pain relief or recovery progress from your normal daily routines, perhaps investing in a tens machine for home electro stimulation therapy, or visiting a physical therapist could help speed up the recovery process.
Check out our 5 Minute Stretching Routine as a way to complement your recovery.