I have been a physical therapist for over 10 years. I have completed several ½ ironman’s, many sprint triathlons, many 5Ks and last month participated in the Tyranena Beer Run ½ Marathon. In training for the Tyranena race I was following a fairly typical training plan, increasing my long run by about a mile per week. During my 8 mile long run I began experiencing calf pain like I never had before. I walked a bit, but like a typical fool began running again just to finish my training that day. What a big mistake! I was so painful I could hardly walk later that day. The next day wasn’t much better and a week out while no longer limping; I was still having pain with just walking. During that week I had done a lot of soft tissue work on myself, stretching and foam rolling. My race day was beginning to look like it was in jeopardy. They say that physical therapists can be the worst patients and maybe it’s true. Finally, I recieved dry needling to the sore areas of my calf. I was a bit sore that day, but the next day I had my first easy run. Why hadn’t I thought of the dry needling sooner!? I did finish the race and in my opinion it was because of the relief the dry needling gave me.
In general the medical profession has forgotten about muscles as sources of pain. Often the pain is blamed on a joint, ligament or tendon. Don’t forget about the muscle! Trigger points in the muscle are areas of very taut bands of muscular tissue that disrupt blood flow to the muscle. The muscle becomes acidic and irritated and creates very predictable patterns of pain that not only effect that area, but can radiate elsewhere. Pictured is a calf muscle trigger point and the pain pattern it creates. As a physical therapist who is dry needling certified, I see people with headaches caused by trigger points in their neck, radiating arm pain caused by trigger points in the rotator cuff, and knee pain caused by trigger points in the thigh muscles. Don’t forget about the muscles and the powerful effect needling can have on trigger points!