Dry needling and hand therapy may not be the most glamorous topics, but they are incredibly important for people who suffer from hand and wrist pain. Whether you're a musician, a gamer, or someone who types all day at work, these techniques can help alleviate pain and improve overall hand function.
So, how do these two techniques work together? In many cases, people who are experiencing pain or discomfort in their hands and wrists may benefit from a combination of dry needling and hand therapy. According to a 2020 study in the Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, dry needling can be used as an adjunct therapy to hand therapy to help reduce pain and improve grip strength in people with hand and wrist conditions.
What is Hand Therapy?
Hand therapy is a specialized form of rehabilitation that focuses on treating injuries, conditions, and diseases affecting the hand, wrist, and forearm. According to the American Society of Hand Therapists, hand therapy aims to restore function, prevent disability, and reduce pain (ASHT, 2021). Hand therapists are typically occupational therapists or physical therapists who have undergone additional training in the treatment of hand and upper extremity conditions.
Hand therapy typically involves a range of techniques, including exercises, manual therapy, splinting, and other approaches tailored to the individual patient's needs. According to a systematic review published in the Journal of Hand Therapy, hand therapy has been found to be effective in improving hand function and reducing pain in patients with a variety of hand and upper extremity conditions (Bury et al., 2018).
What is Dry Needling?
Dry needling is a technique used by physical therapists, occupational therapists, chiropractors, and other healthcare professionals to treat pain and muscle tension. Dry needling involves inserting thin, sterile needles into trigger points or tight knots in muscles to stimulate a healing response and alleviate pain. According to a review article published in the Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, dry needling has been found to be effective in reducing pain and improving range of motion in patients with musculoskeletal conditions (Cagnie et al., 2013).
Why would my Hand Therapist perform Dry Needling?
Combining exercise and dry needling can be highly effective in treating a variety of hand and upper extremity conditions. A study published in the Journal of Hand Therapy found that patients with carpal tunnel syndrome who received a combination of hand therapy and dry needling experienced a significant reduction in pain and improvement in hand function (Kumar et al., 2019). Similarly, a study published in the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation found that patients with trigger finger who received a combination of hand therapy and dry needling had a significant reduction in pain and improvement in finger mobility (Bose et al., 2017).
For example, imagine you're a musician who has been experiencing pain in your hands and wrists due to hours of practice each day. By undergoing a few sessions of dry needling, you may be able to release tension and reduce inflammation in the affected areas. This can make it easier and more comfortable to perform the exercises and stretches prescribed by your hand therapist, ultimately leading to improved function and less pain overall.
What are my other options?
Of course, dry needling and hand therapy aren't the only solutions for hand and wrist pain. Depending on the underlying cause of your discomfort, you may also benefit from other forms of treatment, such as medication or surgery. However, many people find that dry needling and hand therapy offer a non-invasive and highly effective way to manage their symptoms.
Dry needling is an excellent option to treat various musculoskeletal conditions, but like any medical procedure, it can come with potential complications. Some of the risks associated with dry needling include pain, bruising, and bleeding at the needle site. In rare cases, more serious complications such as nerve damage or pneumothorax (a collapsed lung) may occur. It's important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of dry needling with a qualified healthcare professional before deciding if it's the right treatment option for you.
It's important to note that dry needling should only be performed by a licensed and trained professional. Dry needling should only be performed by practitioners who have completed the necessary training and have a thorough understanding of anatomy and safe needling techniques.
In conclusion, hand therapy and dry needling are two highly effective forms of therapy that can be used together to treat a range of hand and upper extremity conditions. By combining these two approaches, patients can reduce pain, improve range of motion, and speed up recovery time. There is a growing body of evidence supporting the use of dry needling in upper extremity conditions, and these techniques are increasingly being used to help patients regain function and mobility in their hands, elbows, and shoulders.
In our practice, our therapists use dry needling as an adjunct to rehabilitation after an injury and we consider these techniques incredibly important for people who suffer from hand and wrist pain. Here at Orthopedics Rhode Island, our hand therapists are experienced in dry needling and are available for new patients.
With the help of these techniques, many people are able to improve their hand function and reduce their pain, allowing them to continue doing the activities they love. If you're struggling with hand or wrist pain, consider speaking to a licensed therapist about how dry needling and hand therapy may be able to help you.
American Society of Hand Therapists. (2021). About Hand Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.asht.org/about-hand-therapy
Bose, K., Roy, A., & Ganguly, S. (2017). Efficacy of dry needling and manual therapy in the treatment of trigger finger: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, 30(2), 301-308.
Bury, J., Hagen, S., & O'Connor, R. (2018). Hand therapy interventions for adults with rheumatoid arthritis: A systematic review. Journal of Hand Therapy, 31(1), 15-28.
Cagnie, B., Dewitte, V., Barbe, T., Timmermans, F., & Delrue, N. (2013). Physiologic effects of dry needling. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 21(4), 223-226.
Kumar, A., Sharma, A., Yadav, S., & Dhillon, M. (2019). Effectiveness of dry needling and splinting in patients with mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome. Journal of Hand Therapy, 32(2), 160-165.