My experience with Dry Needling and Elite Athletes

I worked with a Major League Baseball pitcher who had surgery to repair a flexor tendon on his throwing elbow. When he first called me eight months after his surgery, he was still in pain and had very limited range of motion in his arm. With spring training getting close, he still wasn’t able to throw without pain.

I performed dry needling on him twice. The first time, he got back about half of his range of motion. After the second treatment, his full range of motion was restored. More important, the change lasted after the treatment. After a few more treatments, he was pain-free, able to pitch during spring training and ready to start the season on time.

Dry needling can be very effective in treating pain, improving biomechanical dysfunction and healing soft tissue injuries. Because it is done without drugs, we can cut down on the amount of medication an athlete takes. This spares the liver and kidneys and can improve long-term health.

A lot of people are skeptical at first. But once they see the benefits after one or two treatments, they become believers. Of course, like any treatment, it doesn’t help everyone. We still have a lot of science to uncover and research to perform to determine what’s happening and which injuries it will help.

With regards to research, please check out the RCT below regarding Dry Needling as a tool to help address Chronic Ankle Instability:

Trigger Point Dry Needling and Proprioceptive Exercises for the Management of Chronic Ankle Instability: A Randomized Clinical Trial.

Salom-Moreno J, Ayuso-Casado B, Tamaral-Costa B, Sánchez-Milá Z, Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C, Alburquerque-Sendín F


Objective. To compare the effects of combined trigger point dry needling (TrP-DN) and proprioceptive/strengthening exercises to proprioceptive/strengthening exercises on pain and function in ankle instability.

Methods. Twenty-seven (44% female, mean age: 33 ± 3 years) individuals with unilateral ankle instability were randomly assigned to an experimental group who received proprioceptive/strengthening exercises combined with TrP-DN into the lateral peroneus muscle and a comparison group receiving the same proprioceptive/strengthening exercise program alone. Outcome included function assessed with the Foot and Ankle Ability Measure (FAAM) and ankle pain intensity assessed with a numerical pain rate scale (NPRS). They were captured at baseline and 1-month follow-up after the intervention.

Results. The ANOVAs found significant Group ∗ Time Interactions for both subscales of the FAAM (ADL: F = 8.211; P = 0.008; SPORTS: F = 13.943; P < 0.001) and for pain (F = 44.420; P < 0.001): patients receiving TrP-DN plus proprioceptive/strengthening exercises experienced greater improvements in function and pain than those receiving the exercise program alone. Between-groups effect sizes were large in all outcomes (SMD > 2.1) in favor of the TrP-DN group.

Conclusions. This study provides evidence that the inclusion of TrP-DN within the lateral peroneus muscle into a proprioceptive/strengthening exercise program resulted in better outcomes in pain and function 1 month after the therapy in ankle instability.

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