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Health Check: Dry needling

Jennifer Matteson tried dry needling, which causes muscles to relax, as a way to ease pain. (WJAR)

Jennifer Matteson decided to try needling pain after two months of physical therapy at Elite Physical Therapy in Warwick.

"I have a very overweight dog and I was holding him and I basically hurt myself," said Matteson. That was on top of a chronic neck injury.

While her visits started with just physical therapy, she knew she needed to add something else to the mix.

She consulted with Julia Milner, a doctor of physical therapy, and decided to try dry needling.

"I was a little nervous. I didn't know what to expect," said Matteson.

After her first session, she said she was more than pleasantly surprised.

"I immediately felt relief," said Matteson.

So how does it work?

For starters, acupuncture needles are used, but instead of working with the body's energy points.

"With dry needling we're feeling anywhere where there's muscle restriction and knot, and we apply the needle intramuscularly, so into the muscle and it causes the muscle to release any tension it might have. It also creates a chemical response that sort of gets pain to calm down," said Dr. Michael Nula, co-owner of Elite Physical Therapy and a doctor of physical therapy. "Essentially, we're manipulating the muscle, maneuvering the needle in a very comfortable, safe manner."

"Instantly, when she hits the area of the muscle I feel instant relief," said Matteson during her dry needling session.

The results, she says, after her first session were significant.

"For the first night I actually slept through the night. And that was where I experienced the most pain is while I'm sleeping and I was actually able to get a full eight hours of sleep," said Matteson.

Nula said he likes the science behind dry needling. It's been well studied.

"We always say it's like another tool in our toolbox. So, it's one more other treatment technique that we can apply," Nula said.

Matteson said she's noticed a difference after four treatments.

"I feel about a 50 to 60 percent change in my chronic pain," said Matteson. "My neck is almost -- I would almost want to use the word fully -- healed."

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