Dry needling

Last week I had to stop my training once more because the shin splints were coming back. I was totally bummed out. This time I need answers.

I can’t be overtrained, I hardly ran any kilometers these last weeks.

So maybe it’s my sugar free diet? Yes, it must be. It seemed the only logical explanation to me at that time. So I returned to my old eating and drinking habits. Guess what …. it didn’t change anything. After a few days my shins were still tingling. So this wasn’t it.

Time to call the cavalry

First thing I did when I arrived at work monday was making an appointment at my local physiotherapist. They listened to my complaints and did an examination of my lower legs. My calves were the culprit. The were totally blocked and had major trigger points. These blocked*, pumped up muscles cause a constant stress, what eventually leads to inflammation, to the periosteum (a thin sheath of tissue that wraps around the tibia, or shin bone) because these muscles never get to relax. It’s time to relief those muscles.

* Actually my calves didn’t feel blocked to me but your perception is often wrong when you’re not a pro and so it’s always better to get advice from one.

Dry needling to the rescue

calves getting dry needling therapy
photo credit: © allaboutpodiatry.com.au

The physiotherapist started dry needling to remove the trigger points. By hitting the trigger points (dense muscle knots) with needles you are removing the knot and relieving the muscle.

Dry needling is an invasive procedure in which a (filiform) needle is inserted into the skin and muscle directly at a myofascial trigger point. … Proper dry needling of a myofascial trigger point will elicit a local twitch response (LTR), which is an involuntary spinal cord reflex in which the muscle fibers in the taut band of muscle contract. The LTR indicates the proper placement of the needle in a trigger point. wikipedia

More info (Dutch) at fysiotherapie4all.nl

The therapist told me I’d be stiff (in my calves) for the next two days. If I understand it correctly it’s because the treated muscle tissue is releasing its lactid acid that has been stored in those knots all the time. The evening before the next session I had to do a short run (max 5k) so the physio can examen how my calves (after the 1st dry needling session) react and probably decide on how much sessions I will need.

The cause

How did I end up with those trigger points? According to my physiotherapist I had 2 problems. According to some other people I have more than 2 problems, but that’s another story ;-)

  1. My ankles weren’t flexible enough. I noticed that when I got on to the massage table. The physio grabbed my ankles, pushed and pulled a few times and they immediately popped. I got some excercises to loosen them up.

  2. My forefoot strike wasn’t perfect. I had the tendency to run too much on the ball of my foot and not allowing my heel to touch the ground (Do not confuse with heel strike). This resulted in a constant pressure in my calves which led to trigger points.

Journal log

Yesterday the shin splints were completely gone. It was great not feeling anything at all. In the evening I had to do a short run so the physio can check today how the trigger points have evolved. My left shin started to tingle after only a few 100m but nothing major. I also noticed my left ankle still isn’t as flexible as the right one. I hope they can pop it again today.

To be continued…