May 06

Are You Ok With Needles? My TDN Experience

Exactly what is TDN? I’ll tell you, since my coach did not, but sent me like a sheep to the slaughter…ok, so that’s overly dramatic…but the pain I experienced using Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) at the hands of a physical therapist can not be overstated!


Athletes tend to be a bit nutty, especially in their quest to heal. As most of you know, I ran a marathon a few weeks ago and, in another two weeks I have a duathlon race planned. Unfortunately for me, my body has not been exactly cooperative, so my coach suggested I meet with her physical therapist just to assess the situation.

She failed to mention said therapist would be sticking needles directly into my muscle!

It started innocently enough, and the PT asked me a bunch of questions about how I was injured (old age), my  injury history (just mental illness) and my racing plan for the future (further indication of brain damage).

Like any great physical therapist who is also an athlete, she assured me the race was totally do-able based on the info I gave her. She then proceeded to laugh hysterically at how weak my hips are, after a series of tests. Not cool.

Mine told me I could do a lot of things!!!

Mine told me I could do a lot of things!!! Liars!

She also cracked my back for me because “Your thoracic spine is like cement. How do you swim?”

I’m telling you, this whole visit was a huge ego boost. Apparently, my hips have zero strength, I have the spine of a brick wall and my hamstring pain is really priformis pain stemming from the tree trunk I have inserted into my back.


Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, I saw a little sparkle in her eye. Wait…that was a needle she was holding up! What the hell?

PT: So, this new technique has proven very effective in athletes who need relief in a specific muscle or tendon. I’m using it with several of my patients, including your coach, and have had very positive results.

Me: Wow, that’s great. What does it feel like?

PT: First you will just feel some pressure and then it really depends on you. I’ve gotten a variety of feedback on sensations.

Me: Um, ok.

PT: You’re ok with needles, right?

Me: Sure, no problem there.

PT: Ok so what happens is, I stick it in, then penetrate the muscle which will hopefully stimulate a twitch or spasm response and will loosen up that peroneal tendon.

Me: What the what? In my muscle??? 

PT: You’ll be fine. You had twins, right?

This is when my brain was clearly sending the “flight” message to my legs but, since I ran that marathon five days prior and my legs prefer the prone position these days, I ignored it. Bad decision.

She gloved up (which is never a good sign) and then reached into what looked like a giant tackle box filled with acupuncture needles. She then took my left calf, felt around for a nice knot and stuck the needle in a little at a time. At first, it just felt like pressure but then she hit the muscle, it twitched hard and searing hot pain ran up my leg like she was shooting fireworks into my muscle. Holy mother!

She repeated this process three more times, each time taking the needle out and gently massaging my calf, until I cried “uncle!” I was now sweating and my calf felt like a rock. A rock of pain.

Initially, the pain in my tendon was completely released. It was like getting a massive massage that totally relaxed every muscle from my knee down. I had one completely limp leg with a weight strapped to it. No wait, that’s my calf.


I kind of limped out of the office and the next morning I checked my calf for bruising, convinced there would be, but there was none. The pain in my calf subsided fairly quickly and my peroneal tendon pain was definitely decreased. I didn’t run again for three more days and, when I did, it was still there but much less.

Overall, the therapist was fantastic. She definitely knew her stuff and because she’s a triathlete and marathon runner, she could relate to me on all the best and most important levels. All sarcasm aside (which you know I loved), she really did help with my hips and piriformis.

I shot this off to CRS afterward…

That CRS sure is a funny one.

That CRS sure is a funny one.

I now know I need to strength train 2-3 times per week, instead of the one day I was doing, and really focus on my hips. I also need to stretch in new and different ways and roll my back out daily.

Time will tell if all of this will help, but I’m definitely glad I went, except that now I’m afraid of flying and needles.

If you want to learn more about Trigger Point Dry Needling, this is a great article and another one, from The Washington Post, has a runner’s case study where the runner describes the pain as “electric charged spikes jabbing into my nerves.” He really captured the feeling.

Have you ever heard of this technique?

Would you try it?

Have you had good or bad (or any) experiences with a physical therapist?



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  1. Is it sick that I want this done to me? Of course I’m an injured runner. I’ll do whatever it takes to get back to running. Seriously….I’m talking to my PT today!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted…28 Healthy Energy Balls and BitesMy Profile

    1. It’s not AT ALL – I did it!! I seriously hope it works for you Angela. The few minutes of pain would be worth it!

  2. I don’t think that is a therapy for me. I’m terrified of needles and honestly had never even heard of that until now. Thanks for sharing your experience though. Thanks but hashtag no thanks. 😉
    Hollie recently posted…Cruise PortsMy Profile

    1. HAHAHA – I don’t blame you. If you already hate needles there is just no way!!

    • Jikl on May 6, 2015 at 6:19 AM
    • Reply

    I *flirt* with the idea of acupuncture pretty frequently but I think I would’ve found my legs and gotten out of there!! So glad you’re feeling some relief…which hip exercises will you do on strength days? I feel accomplished if I occasionally remember to stretch mine!

    1. I know, right? I’m working a lot with a band (the ones from Perform Better are great!) also doing reverse clam shells, donkey kicks, fire hydrants, side laying leg lifts with hip extension, crab walks with squats, monster walks and “box step” squats. Kind of hard to explain it all but either I should make a video or you can look up all of this one YouTube! 🙂 Good luck!

  3. So I’ve had both effective and ineffective dry needling. The effective really was a miracle worker, along with concentrated PT and hard work on my part. The ineffective was just painful and I’m convinced the guy didn’t know what the heck he was doing. But when it hits the right spot–that’s quite a little zinger, no? Glad you’re on the mend!
    misszippy recently posted…The difference between fit and fastMy Profile

    1. That’s interesting. Unfortunately I would have to say my was ineffective although she definitely knew what she was doing, and I only had one small session. I’m sure if I were willing and able to go back (it’s an hour from my house!) it may work. Right now I’m ok with strengthening and stretching 🙂 Thanks Amanda!

  4. I have never heard of this technique and omg I hope I never have to do it! You elite folks really don’t play when it comes to recovery. I’m glad it worked for you but the way you described it made me cringe in my subway seat!!
    Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama recently posted…Weekly Wednesday Workout: Aqua TeasersMy Profile

    1. It is definitely cringe-worthy! I never thought I would do something like this, but I was kind of tricked!!

    • Tina Smith on May 6, 2015 at 7:14 AM
    • Reply

    Have been doing it for 2 months: lower back (8 needles), hamstring (5), IT band (4), hip flexor AREA (3) and sometimes around front and back of knee. Hamstring shooting pain down to my toe is not cute, but I’m amazed at how far the 3″ needles now go in without feeling. S@%t works!

    1. Holy shit!! Are you kidding me?? That is awful, but at least it’s working. The things we do, right?

  5. Uggh, I hate needles. I’ve had several friends do this however and they swear by it. Still not sure I could do it though. Hope it works for you!
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…Paris Marathon Part 3: The AftermathMy Profile

    1. Wow, really? That is serious. If it works though, I totally get it. It didn’t really work for me though, other then initial relief. I would probably have to go back and have it done multiple times but NO THANKS!

  6. “You had twins, right?” Ha ha ha ha ha – that will make me giggle all day. Your physical therapist reminds me of my OB: “Your cervix is shut like a steel trap.”
    Carly @ Fine Fit Day recently posted…7 Awesome NO Equipment Workouts [Guest Post]My Profile

    1. Gotta love sarcastic health care peeps! It keeps us laughing…until we cry 🙂

  7. Sounds not so fun but if it helped then it was worth it. Not crazy about needles but I would try it if it helped.
    Kristina Walters @ Kris On Fitness recently posted…Grand Island Half Marathon Prep UpdateMy Profile

    1. It helped initially but I think I would have to keep doing it to see real, lasting results and for me, it’s not worth it. I’ll take some good old fashioned rest, ice and stretching!

    • Kathleen on May 6, 2015 at 9:17 AM
    • Reply

    Your experience sounds similar to mine except when asked how I felt about needles, I told her I had a serious fear of them. She laughed and told me to flip onto my stomach…I guess the whole you cannot see it thing or she really thought I was joking. She kept the needle in and moving in and out until the muscle stopped spasming. The first time it was over 10 minutes of that painful twitch feeling. The knot in my calf got smaller but has never really gone away.

    1. OMG that is horrible! I cannot believe you had that experience. I’m so sorry but I can totally see how that could happen. Awful.

  8. It sounds a little like acupuncture? Which I haven’t tried either….but I’m not sure about this….I’m glad it’s helping you. recently posted…How to Run a 5K In 6 HoursMy Profile

    1. It’s like that but the needle goes much deeper. I’m not going back though, once was enough for me. Too much pain for too little reward!

  9. AHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No way!!!! Your brave!!!!!!
    I have heard of this and saw a picture of Alana Hadley having it done and I was thinking NO WAY. Although the truth is, I am a desperate runner and if I was injured I would try anything to get better ASAP!!!!
    The whole you have had twins things would not ease my nerves for sure. I mean yes you did…but are you saying this is going to hurt like that!!!!
    My question is does it really feel any better or do you just forget that pain because you were given more pain to keep your mind occupied :)!
    So far I have never had to see a physical therapist, a sports doctor, a chiropractor or anything like that…fingers crossed it stays that way!
    Jen@milesandblessings recently posted…The weekend happenings & why running is confusingMy Profile

    1. If I had known it was coming, I probably would not have done it! She made it sound like it wasn’t that bad but it was horrible. I’m not going back to have it done again, even though the pain has returned, it’s not THAT bad and I can work it out with rest, ice and stretching.
      SO glad you have never seen an “injury expert” of any kind!

  10. I’m totally terrified of needles, even of shots which don’t ever really hurt, so I don’t think I could do TDN! Then again, if I was injured and I thought it would help, I would probably suck it up because short-term pain beats long term pain (and not running is included in long term pain for me haha).
    I went to a PT a few years back for weak ankles and supination and loved it. They had this weird ultrasound-ish machine that would deep massage my calves and stimulate the muscles.
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…Charlie our PuggleMy Profile

    1. Not running is long term pain for sure!! I’m not in THAT much pain and I can actually run with my injury (although not recommended!) so I’m not having done again. I’ve also had ultrasound and it’s wonderful!

  11. I have never heard of TDN! It kind of sounds like a mixture between acupuncture and foam rolling. When I had IT band syndrome I did a lot of foam rolling and it hurt like a b*tch! But super effective. Acupuncture, on the other hand, didn’t hurt at all and was quite relaxing but I’m not sure how much it helped. I did it for morning sickness and allergies. Both eventually cleared up but I think on their own. 🙂

    I had a physical therapist when I fractured my elbow and she was great! I really enjoyed going to her and I loved the massages. I didn’t love icing at the end though.
    Britt@MyOwnBalance recently posted…Overnight Oats Four WaysMy Profile

    1. Foam rolling is a pleasure cruise in comparison but yes, when you find a good knot with the roller it kills…and then sweet release. Good therapists are a must for anyone who is really active (like you!) and I agree with the icing. I have two blankets on me at night when I ice my foot!!

    • Chris on May 6, 2015 at 2:08 PM
    • Reply

    Could not resist commenting on this…Dry Needling is a breeze. Have you had EMG studies, yeah will talk after that. Lets just hope you never have to experience that. I actually LOVED dry needling. Its a toss up between that and a massage and I’m not joking. Pam at Integrated Rocks!

    1. Wow, seriously? OMG woman you have a high tolerance for pain!!! 🙂

    • Chris on May 6, 2015 at 2:09 PM
    • Reply

    ps feel better

  12. Oh this therapist does NOT want to meet me… Or maybe I do not want to meet her, because man, she would think I am a walking circus act – her abs would get quite the work out from laughing so hard.
    GiGi Eats recently posted…The D Train: Are You On It?My Profile

    1. Oh I think she would LOVE to meet you Gigi. Doesn’t everyone? 🙂

      1. Salmon does not like to meet me… Because it knows it is DOOMED!
        GiGi Eats recently posted…The D Train: Are You On It?My Profile

    my hips are so sad and made at me.
    are you gonna think I wanna do EVERYTHING you do?? 🙂
    CARLA recently posted…How many hours a day do you workout?My Profile

    1. Don’t you? 🙂 If only we lived closer, we could work on our hips all day…or in between everything else… #wycwyc

  14. dry needling… people swear by it. sounds like a form of torture to me!
    emma @ be mom strong recently posted…Race 13.1My Profile

    1. Complete torture! Let’s hope you never even have to consider it.

  15. I have heard of trigger point dry needling but never had it done. When I am hurt though I am open to anything to relieve the pain so probably would have said yes!
    Sandra Laflamme recently posted…Food Talk. Why Organic Matters. The Issue of Roundup.My Profile

  16. I love how medical pros always describe any impending pain as “you’ll feel a little pressure”. lol
    I’m glad you got some good results from it so far. Love you much!
    Yum Yucky recently posted…Abs Progress Pictures: C-Section, Loose Skin, Stretch Marks, ScarringMy Profile

    1. You would think I would stop believing it!! Love you too xo

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