So the benefit of inflammation is what I find the most fascinating. Why? We have discovered that we can use the body’s natural inflammatory response to facilitate healing. This has been one of the biggest changes in physical therapy’s understanding of benefit of acute inflammation and has led to many interventions that we can now utilize.
The presence of inflammatory cells (macrophages) in acute muscle injury produce a high level of a growth factor called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) which produces the most healing and significantly increases the rate of muscle regeneration.
One way that we use inflammation to promote increase in healing and decrease muscle pain and dysfunction is with dry needling.
-What is dry needling? Thin, dry needles are used (such as with acupuncture) — “dry” in the sense that they don’t inject anything into the body — that are inserted through the skin into the muscle tissue. . It’s almost always used as part of a larger pain management plan that could include exercise, stretching, massage and other techniques.
-Why does dry needling work? An overused muscle is in an energy crisis where, because of overuse or inappropriate contraction, the muscle fibers are no longer getting adequate blood supply. If a muscle is not getting that normal blood supply, it’s not getting the oxygen and nutrients that will allow the muscle to go back to its normal resting state.
Another way physical therapy has learned to use inflammation to advantage is with eccentric muscle contraction.
-What is an eccentric muscle contraction? An eccentric muscle contraction is generated when the fibers of a muscle lengthen as they lower a load. It is often referred to as the “down phase” of an exercise. For example, when you curl a weight with your bicep and then lower it back to the starting position, the eccentric phase occurs when you are lowering the weight back to the starting position.
-Why does eccentric contraction work? This type of muscle contraction causes a stretch to take place within the muscle and tendon. It also causes microtears within the fibers which are repaired with scar tissue. The major benefit of an eccentric contraction is that the scar tissue that is laid down is aligned in a uniformed fashion along the angle of pull of the tendon. Several studies have supported the use of eccentric exercise for tendinopathies, a major cause of chronic pain.
I myself have greatly benefited from both interventions. I had debilitating hip pain that prevented me from sleeping on my right side and caused pain with walking and standing, Sometimes it was excruciating, After determining that I had a gluteus medius tendinopathy I used eccentric exercises and within a few weeks was back to being pain free. I also have suffered from sharp pain in my left knee as well as some muscle imbalances after 3 knee surgeries. Dry needling of the muscles in my left leg have made a tremendous difference in the sharp stabbing pain that I would have associated with osteoarthritis and enabled me to resume walking and exercising.
I look forward to seeing what we learn in the future about using acute inflammation in the physical therapy setting to our advantage. So far it’s exciting to see how it benefits patients so they can do what they most want to do: garden, walk, run, golf, sleep, etc. with less pain and limitations.
Deborah Haggard, PTA
If you are experiencing any kind of inflammation, contact us for a free consultation. To request an appointment, click here, or call directly to one of our three locations during regular business hours:
Cool Springs: 615-224-9810
Spring Hill: 931-489-2022
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is intended to be informational only, and is not intended to be used in lieu of medical care. Consult a doctor or a physical therapist before attempting treatment on your own.