Dry needling for shoulder injuries can be effective at relieving pain and speeding up recovery. The biggest factor in whether dry needling is an appropriate treatment for your shoulder injury is what type of shoulder injury you’re experiencing. Dry needling is not suitable for every type of shoulder injury, but for those that can improve with therapy, dry needling is a useful strategy.
If you’re not familiar with dry needling, I’ll give you some brief education on the topic and things that you need to know before looking for dry needling near you. I’ll address what type of shoulder injuries may respond well to dry needling. I’ll also discuss what which shoulder injuries need another avenue of care and why.
What is Dry Needling and How Can it Help with Shoulder Injuries
Dry needling involves using small acupuncture needles to target myofascial trigger points, muscles, and fascia. The goals of dry needling are to relieve pain, reduce muscle tension, and improve motion. When treating shoulder injuries, dry needling is typically going to be applied near the painful shoulder. When applied by a competent provider, dry needling is a safe and effective treatment that typically has very few side effects.
It’s important to recognize that dry needling is not usually applied as a stand-alone treatment. Dry needling is just a piece of the overall treatment plan that will include a home rehabilitative exercise program and may include other soft tissue treatments, joint manipulation, and supportive therapies. Your provider will ensure that dry needling is a suitable treatment for your shoulder injury, and if it’s not they will direct you to a better treatment option.
Shoulder Injuries that Dry Needling Can Help
As a general rule, dry needling is most effective when your shoulder injury has significant soft tissue involvement.
Soft tissue involvement means you have muscle, fascia, and ligament pain or injury. Most of the time soft tissue injury is closely related to joint injury and sometimes nerve pain and injury. The shoulder joints and close by nerves may or may not be involved.
Common shoulder injuries that dry needling may help include:
- Shoulder impingement
- Biceps tendonitis
- Rotator cuff tendonitis
- Other tendonitis or tendonosis of the shoulder muscles
- Shoulder labrum tears
- Partial rotator cuff tears
- Post-surgical scar tissue build-up
- Shoulder bursitis
- Frozen shoulder
- Radiculopathy with nerve pain in the shoulder
- Shoulder arthritis
- Trigger points in the shoulder
Your shoulder injury is unique, but as a general rule, dry needling can sometimes help relieve pain and improve function in these types of shoulder injuries. Remember, I use dry needling as part of an overall treatment plan. It’s not a “one thing fixes all” type of treatment.
Shoulder Injuries that Dry Needling May Not Help
A lot of times you’ll know when you have a shoulder injury that dry needling can’t help with. These shoulder injuries are usually more severe or traumatic in nature. If you suspect you have one of these types of shoulder injuries, it may not be the right treatment for you.
Common shoulder injuries that dry needling may not be able to help include:
- Full-thickness rotator cuff tear
- Torn biceps tendon
- Shoulder dislocation
- Extensive SLAP tears of the shoulder
- Fractured clavicle, humerus, or scapula
This is not an exhaustive list but covers most of the shoulder injuries that I would refer out quickly to an orthopedic medical doctor specialist. Sometimes, you may not be sure what’s wrong with your shoulder or how serious the injury. In this case, I’ll take a look at your shoulder injury, do a full exam, and let you know if it’s a shoulder injury dry needling may help with. Most referrals I make are not because dry needling could cause more harm, but because there are more effective treatments for your shoulder injury.
Do you have a knee injury too? See this post where I explain the ins and outs of dry needling for knee pain –> Dry Needling for Knee Pain Explained
Dr. Jason Williams DC is a chiropractic physician practicing at AccessHealth Chiropractic in Cary, NC. He treats neuromusculoskeletal pain and injuries using chiropractic manipulation, dry needling, acupuncture, rehab exercise strategies, and other supportive therapies. Primary areas of focus include back pain, neck pain, muscular pain, extremity pain, and orthopedic injuries. Dr. Williams is experienced in treating athletes, especially those in the CrossFit, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and MMA community.
If you’re interested in whether he or another AccessHealth provider can help you, navigate to our contact page or follow this link to request an appointment.