Gentle spring breezes and warm sunshine are luring Quad City walkers and runners outside to shake off the winter doldrums and get moving.
However, hitting the pavement at any age can often cause inflammation in the Achilles tendon, plantar fasciitis in the foot, or other sources of foot and heel pain.
For Rebecca Kozlik, 46, Davenport, and a Quad City mother of four, her desire to run for exercise, enjoyment, and stress relief hit a speed bump when heel pain sidelined her from her favorite workout.
“I came into running as an adult, but it’s such a great way to relax, especially while raising a busy family.”
When charging up hills in the Quad City Times Bix 7, followed by training for a half marathon, Rebecca’s heel pain became so bad, it derailed her running routine.
“I tried cortisone shots, boots, and crutches, but nothing worked until my physician suggested ‘dry needling.’ At that point, I was ready to try anything!”
“Pain in the back of the heel can be hard to treat because both Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis are common. And, while they have different symptoms, both conditions can aggravate one another.”
Dr. Shay referred Rebecca to ORA Physical Therapist, Meghan Buchanan, who is specially trained in the technique of dry needling.
“Dry needling uses a trigger point needle I insert into tissue that can help loosen up the muscle and allow patients to regain mobility.
“I have been practicing this for about four years. We can use dry needling on just about any muscle area. I’ve treated knees, shoulders, backs, and headaches. If the pain involves a muscle, dry needling can be used to activate or relax it.”
Meghan explains that dry needling, while similar to acupuncture, has different training requirements, because its origins are in Western medicine. She also uses smaller, thicker needles inserted into specific muscular areas to loosen the tissue for localized pain relief.
The dry needling procedure begins when Meghan inserts the needles into Rebecca’s calf in order to break up adhesions and restore motion and flexibility.
“In Rebecca’s case, I insert the dry needles into where her Achilles tendon is connected to the calf muscle. There, where the muscle is really tight, I can stimulate more blood flow, which helps relax the muscle and improves her mobility for both her muscle and her Achilles.”
Does it hurt? “I don’t actually have to look at the needle,” laughs Rebecca. “You can’t feel the needle as it goes in, but once it hits the tender muscle, it spasms, and then the needle comes out and the pain is gone! It’s amazing. The next day I can run because the pain is that much better!”
Dr. Shay says that each patient needs to be evaluated to ensure dry needling is the right course of treatment.
“There are other therapies for muscular and joint pain. But our patients have great results from dry needling when it’s the right approach for them.”
“At ORA, we use dry needling often. Our physical therapists are trained to use it. It’s definitely become more en vogue. Our goal is always to get our patients back to the activities they enjoy.”
As for Rebecca, she has set her summer goals on another Bix race, and more importantly, resuming her weekly running routine in what is likely to be another busy summer ahead.