Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Stroke Survival: The New Therapist and Dry Needling

I'll bet y'all were wondering about how the new dry needling therapy was going. I haven't done an update since I've started it.

There was no doubt in my mind that my Botox was winding down prior to these treatments. My bicep, pectoral, and radial muscles were cramping and my range of motion was no longer gaining neutral positioning during stretching. That's with my OT at the hospital rehab doing all the work. The spasticity was returning.

My new therapist is a short and muscular sort of man with a cheery disposition. He has a Scottish brogue in his speech with a slight southern accent. Quite charming actually. I can understand why he and my speech therapist married. They share understanding, compassion, a genuine willingness to help others, great sense of humor, and a thirst for knowledge traits. They both are not afraid to tr ew things if it works even if he is NDT trained. People after my own heart. He is also the clinical director of his facility. Anyhow, I like him.

We spent a lengthy amount of time talking about the procedure and the science. Most of it was about documenting the journey, would I mind? Mind, me mind, don't make me laugh. If this works, I'll be shouting it from every rooftop and flooding the internet. He told me that there wasn't much information or documentation about how dry needling works for spasticity for post stroke patients.

I knew that from my own research. He was realistic about the outcome of the procedure and asked if I would mind being video taped for documentation. Eventually, he would get together with other practitioners and publish the results.

I went into this with an open mind with the hope for success tempered with possible failure as voodoo medicine as my old therapist called it. I rarely shot all hope in the foot or sabotage possible success. I am, after all, the hopeful realist. I am honest enough to reserve all judgement until after all the facts are in...that's one of the reasons for the delay in this posting.

He video taped me before he did anything for a baseline. I told him if he really wanted  baseline, we should have waited for two more weeks when the Botox was almost all the way out of my system. But he said this would work, and then he took me back into the treatment room. He mentioned me changing into a gown, but I pulled off my sweatshirt and showed him my tank top. I came prepared. Too many previous therapy sessions in the past.

My arm is more or less locked in a 45 degree angle due to the spasticity. It can be relaxed to almost straight at the elbow with enough gradual stretching. Unfortunately, it does not last more than thirty minutes and then the spasticity draws it up again.

He went to get his "bag of tricks" as he called his tote with needles and alcohol swabs. I've had acupuncture before so I knew what the needles looked and felt like going into the skin. I've also had EMGs before so I'm well aware of what those bigger needles and the fire they cause when they hits a spastic trigger point. And, I do mean fire up and down from the point of impact.

I've often said that a line of open communication was the key to getting positive gains. I also believe in getting every cent's worth of every dollar I spend. I explained this to him before we started. He almost seemed relieved, but he talked to me throughout the treatment anyhow. "Is it too much?" "Can you handle a bit more?" became a mantra of sorts in that Scottish brogue of his.

I felt him go through a vein and bounce the needle off a few bones a couple of times.That's how this differs from acupuncture for those that say this is just a glorified acupuncture. It's more like an EMG except once the needle hits the spot, it is manipulated in and out into the trigger point a few times. I can feel the muscle spasm immediately relax. Instant gratification as it is.

He did a couple of trigger points and then stretch the muscles. Each time he stopped needling and stretched, he got more and more of a response. It was fascinating to watch as if it weren't my body at all. But personally, I was amazed at the amount of movement he was obtaining. I left that first appointment in a state of shock.

The effects lasted until my next appointment a day and a half later. I walked into the rehab office with my arm fully out stretched at the elbow along my body. In fact, I've added tricep building exercises to my daily exercises to combat my arm falling without control.

So we started again. He asked about any after affects to the dry needling. I had a couple of small bruises from where he went through a vein, a little bit of nausea, and the painful muscles were relieved by a couple of bags of frozen corn. I found eating something helped the nausea. So now I eat before treatments and no more nausea. Also, drinking 16 ozs of water also helps eliminate the spasticity causing agents after the treatment.

This time he hit my steel traps (trapezius muscles) in my shoulders to allow the shoulder to move more freely. Mine are always tight because that's where my stress centers. He also focused on my wrist and hand.

Again I watched amazed as he moved my wrist to more than neutral, which hasn't happened since the spasticity set in (over two years ago) and my finger straighten with my arm outstretched. My other OT could only manage the fingers outstretched with the elbow bent. I'm loving the results! I'm finally feeling optimistic and excited about therapy again.

This was all great and good, but would it last? Only time would tell. This second treatment was on a Friday and my next treatment was on Tuesday. By Monday, I could only get 90 degrees of supination in my wrist instead of being able to lay it flat against my desk palm up. By Tuesday morning, only 45 degrees of rotation. Okay, it was only the first heavy duty focus on the wrist and hand. It could take several treatments or at least that's what I read.

I greeted my therapist with a, "do it again!"

I now leave his rehab place with a smile on my face. I'm getting the response that I'd hoped for. Am I at the point of shouting it from the rooftops yet? Not quite yet. Now when I get long lasting results, you better believe it. We are both optimistic while keeping our feet firmly on the ground. As for now, I've found a spasticity and pain relief method that works in between Botox. But another stroke survivor and friend has decided to forgo his Botox at least for one series. I'll keep you posted on the results.

Nothing is impossible with determination.


  1. WoooHoooooooo! Fabulous start, Jo! "Do it again" is right. Lovely!


  2. I am so thrilled for you. I know you will follow thru with strengthening your weak muscles that now have a fighting chance against those spastic bullies.


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