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  • Writer's pictureDr. Brandon

How Can Dry Needling Help with Knee Arthritis?

When it comes to treating knee osteoarthritis, finding natural remedies that let you walk, exercise, walk up or down a flight of stairs or even get out of a chair without pain are rare. Most of the time it is something we are told we just have to live with or is something that “everybody my age deals with” all the while fearing that it is just the start down the path of not being able to exercise or enjoy life while dreading the loss of mobility and independence that arthritis might mean. More often than not, we are only offered dangerous painkillers or a steroid shot and told to rest until it gets bad enough that the surgeon wants to replace them. Sadly, I’ve seen this story and its reruns more times than I care to say and in many cases, it did not have to be that way. Here’s why. Did you know that one of the best kept secrets for treating knee arthritis (even severe knee arthritis) is to get moving? But how can you do that when your knees are in pain? Well, first it helps to have something that starts to jumpstart your body’s healing process while easing the pain in your knees. That’s where Dry Needling for knee pain comes in. So, how can dry needling for arthritis help? (Find out if Dry Needling is for you with one of our Knee Pain Experts and Dry Needling Certified Doctors of Physiotherapy with our Free Dry Needling Consultation)

How Dry Needling for Knee Arthritis works

Before we talk about how it works, first it helps to know a little bit about what is going on in the knee and how anything other than surgery can fix it. When we are talking about knee arthritis we’re talking about changes to the cartilage of the knee in a couple of different areas. The knee is actually two different joints (with a third joint very close by that can contribute to pain). When told that we have arthritis, your doctor is mostly talking about the joint between the thigh bone or femur and the shin bone or tibia. Sometimes it is because the kneecap or patella isn’t tracking properly (usually due to a problem at the hip). Severe chronic knee pain is sometimes described as “bone on bone arthritis” or “degeneration” and often that can be a scary diagnosis. In addition, often the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that surround the knee become stressed and painful contributing to loss of mobility and independence through weakness and pain. But, the good news is that both of those diagnoses are not the end of everything that you like to do, even if it is giving you severe knee pain right now. In fact, recently I’ve seen somebody who was told they had to lose 50 pounds in order to qualify for their knee replacement be able to cancel their surgery after we addressed the underlying drivers of their knee pain (in this case, dry needling plus a couple of simple movements for their knee were able to significantly reduce both the stiffness and pain while letting them walk without a limp for the first time in a year) and that is just one story of many.

So, I've promised to talk about how dry needling for knee arthritis works so, here goes. First off, I should answer the question, “What is dry needling”. Dry needling uses acupuncture needles to target the stiff, sore, and painful areas of the joint, tendon, and muscle that surrounds the knee (as well as other joints). After a thorough examination that looks at the root cause of why the knee hurts (and many times, the knee pain is the victim of pain in the back, pain in the hips, or pain in the foot), we often use acupuncture needles to ease pain in the joint along with easing the tight and tender muscles surrounding the knee. This lets the knee move better and lets the muscles take the load that the knee joint is currently taking. Also, through the use of electrical stimulation directly to the needle, it triggers the release of your body’s own natural pain relieving chemicals that tackle inflammation and ease pain and stiffness. In addition, depending on the site needled, it can also stimulate healing of the tendon or ligament. The question that I often get is “Does dry needling reverse knee arthritis ?”. The simple answer is, no, dry needling does not directly change the health of the cartilage. How dry needling eases painful arthritis is by helping the other areas around the knee begin to work the way they were designed to. When the supports for you knee, which include not only your knee muscles but also the support from your hips and feet as well, are working, they take the stress off your knee. When this stress is taken away, you can then start to do things like walking which then starts to stimulate your knee to start lubricating the joint which further eases the stress to your knee and allows it to move even better. When it moves better, you can then start increasing strength to begin preventing knee pain flares. We combine dry needling in our Reset-Reinforce-Reload treatment system that starts with easing your pain, moves to fixing your foundation that lets you get in pain to begin with, and finally moving to building a stronger and better you that can do what you want to do, when you want to do it, and not have your body be the thing that holds you back. This means more strength and mobility in the short term and independence in the long term both in how well you move as well as freedom from painkillers and surgery. (Need help now? See if Dry needling is right for you for free, apply for your free consultation, only 4 accepted per week)

What happens in your Free Consultation? In this half hour consultation, you’ll get the opportunity to ask your Doctor of Physiotherapy any questions about your current condition, get the answers you need, and start to get to the root of why you are dealing with knee pain as well as what it will take to start sorting it out. Only 4 per week. Apply for your free consultation here.

About the author

Brandon Alkire, DPT, CSCS, FMS, Cert. DN

Doctor of Physical Therapy and Strength Coach

Dr. Brandon is the owner and a Physio at Body Mechanix Physiotherapy and Fitness. Four of his favorite people call him daddy while he's been married to his other favorite person for over 18 years. He enjoys teaching martial arts and is a Mestrando in Capoeira while in the mornings, he can be found working out with the guys in F3 around town.

He's the author of 4 pain relief guides for neck, low back, shoulder, and knees and the lead contributor to the Active Tallahassee Blog.

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