Ellsworth physical therapist helps heal Airmen faster with new technique

  • Published
  • By Airman Alessandra N. Gamboa
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Muscles twitch in response to the doctor (one of only two therapists in the Air Force credentialed to perform such a delicate procedure ) inserting several pain-relieving needles of varying lengths and diameters into the leg of an injured Airman.

This practice, a modern physical therapy technique known as trigger point dry needling has revolutionized the realm of physical therapy, by shifting its focus from the muscle to the neuron.

"The kind of turnaround in the patients' recoveries when using dry needling has shown a profound effect on the neurological system, identifying the neurological component as the most significant part of what is going on," said (Maj.) Dr. Scott Jones, 28th Medical Group flight chief of the human performance flight.

The method uses the same needles as acupuncture, although it is a completely different procedure. Dry needling works by localizing the trigger point (tissue with significant spasticity) within the dysfunctional muscle, and then inserting the needle to produce localized twitch responses, or little muscle spasms.

Dry needling is a relatively new medical procedure, and some physical therapists are reluctant to employ it due to the added risks and additional training involved.

In response, Airman 1st Class Haylley Carlson, 28th MDG physical therapy assistant, emphasizes that challenges and extensive training within the field are all well worth the time and effort when it comes to helping patients recover more quickly and efficiently from their injuries.

"I love people," she said. "People get injured and physical therapy is the most important aspect of healing. They need the best care they can get and each body is different. I've learned a lot and faced many challenges since I've started my training, but it's all worth it. I definitely think I have the best job in the Air Force."