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Trigger Point Therapy for Athletes

Trigger point and dry needling therapy can relieve chronic pain and spasms

by John Kelley, MD
Family Medicine Department
Boulder Medical Center

It is no secret that Boulder County, Colorado is an athlete’s paradise.  One can take advantage of a physically challenging adventure any time of the year. From cycling and hiking in the summertime to skiing and snowboarding in winter, activities are enjoyed by many all year around.

Trigger point therapy can be beneficial for pain that persists over time.

If you live here and take advantage of the various active pursuits this area has to offer then you may have pushed your body to a point where your body pushes back.  Your body is adept at communicating to you when it is stressed and muscular pain can be a signal that it’s time to seek treatment. Certain repetitive movements can cause what is referred to as myofascial trigger points.  These hyperirritable areas of skeletal muscle are caused by acute or chronic muscle overload which can often persist despite giving the area time to heal.  

You certainly don’t have to be an ultramarathon runner to experience this painful problem. Many people develop neck or back pain and/or muscle spasms from stress, poor posture, poor weightlifting techniques, or even a lack of core strength.

If you have experienced “knots” in your neck or back which persist over time there are several options for relief.  Dry needling and trigger point injections can be very beneficial and do not require prescription medication. Both procedures function in a similar manner and each are an adjunct to acupuncture. While these procedures do not follow traditional Chinese meridians, they work by placing a needle into a trigger point to stimulate neurotransmitters which promote relaxation of the muscle bed. While dry needling uses traditional acupuncture needles, trigger point injections also utilize the anesthetic lidocaine to help with immediate relief.

How to tell if you may benefit from dry needling or trigger point injections

  • You have pain that is localized to one particular area of your neck or back;
  • You are able to feel knotty or ropy-like muscles in your neck or back which can be tender to the touch;
  • This pain does not self-resolve for a period of two weeks.

For some, this remedy is adept at solving the muscular problem. However, if you are experiencing the following symptoms, it may be time for more extensive testing or imaging:

  • Shooting pain down your legs or arms;
  • Progressive weakness in arms or legs;
  • Numbness or tingling in extremities

Seek out relief for these types of pain, so that you can continue to enjoy the activities you love in our wonderful community.


Get to know John Kelley, MD
Specializing in Family Medicine and Integrative Medicine at Boulder Medical Center

Dr. Kelley practices holistic medicine in the broadest sense of the word. For him, every patient has to be approached as an individual person with specific needs, focusing on the mind-body connection through a bio-psycho-social lens.

“I focus on diet, exercise and healthy personal and spiritual lives in the treatment and prevention of chronic disease,” he says. “I am always seeking ways to get patients safely off of medications.”

In addition to Western medicine, Dr. Kelley utilizes evidence-based Eastern medicine, natural supplementation and continues to train in the ever-expanding field of Integrative Medicine.


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