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Releasing the tension

BY CATHY BREITENBUCHER

Physical Therapist John Hojnacki uses dry needling therapy to treat spinal injuries.


Leah Good canít afford down time. A 29-year-old mother of two young children and a full-time graphic artist, she had experienced frustrating back pain for four long years.

Following spinal fusion surgery at Aurora St. Lukeís Medical Center in June, Good was advised to have physical therapy including a procedure called dry needling.

"In three weeks, I went from depending on a cane to not using it at all, and I completely attribute that to the dry needling," says Good, who lives in Wauwatosa.

Dry needling is a therapy using a 1-1/2- to 2-inch-long needle to locate trigger points in the muscle, allowing tension to be released so the PT can use deep-tissue massage and other treatment. Itís known as dry needling because no steroids or other liquids are injected.

The therapy can help people with a variety of types of pain, including chronic headaches and osteoarthritis, according to John Hojnacki, a physical therapist certified in dry needling treatment at Spinal Dynamics of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa. Most patients have twice-weekly treatments for about six weeks.

The principle differs from acupuncture, Hojnacki notes.

"We are looking for specific, physiological muscle restriction," he explains. "Acupuncture gets into the Eastern philosophy of opening up meridians of energy flow to the body."

Good likely sustained a torn ligament in her back during the birth of her first child, now 4 years old.

"I had had every kind of injection and pain management, and I felt like there was no hope," she says. "Here Iím about to turn 30 years old and I felt like a 70-year-old. Now, Iíve got a whole new lease on life."