The day I cried at my needling appointment

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I mentioned in my blog post I’m finally having some proper physio that I was due to have a needling session to try and ease my neck pain. Well, this week I had it. And my god it was the most painful thing. Not only did I nearly pass out, I cried. Twice.

The day I cried at my needling appointment

I can’t remember if I’ve had needling before or if it was acupuncture, but I kinda knew what to expect. I thought I did anyway. I knew it involved tiny needles being inserted in to specific trigger points on my body and some gentle twisting of the needle to stimulate the muscles. I recall it caused a little bit of pain, but nothing I couldn’t cope with considering how used to pain I am these days.

How wrong I was

The needles went in to my neck one at a time. I think there was 6 altogether but to be honest I lost count. It was painful but bearable. The twisting started and blinking ‘eck; it hurt so much. I made a few noises and my whole body seemed to tense up. I was sat forward on a chair so couldn’t really move and defend myself. Each twist of the needle was more and more painful.

When I thought it wouldn’t get any worse, the physio decided to tackle some of the muscles in the top of my back and shoulders; he said they were extremely tight. The needles went in and I’m not kidding, it was like being stabbed with a knife and someone twisting it. The pain resonated up and down my upper back. I nearly cried. I thought I was going to pass out with the pain, but somehow I stayed conscious. I must have been muttering some nosies and signalling that I was in distress and suffering, because they guy said ?you can swear you know?. So I did. I was due to have two other treatments of this and I was thinking I’m never going back again if this is what it’s like.

I couldn’t hold it together

I got up after he had finally finished and my whole body seemed to go all sweaty and weak. He said this was a normal reaction. He also said I had the tightest neck muscles he’d come across, except for a Russian boxer, who passed out whilst in the chair having the needling. I felt quite proud of myself for a brief moment.

The physio told me to lie down and started moving my neck in weird ways and the dizziness started. He told me I needed to calm my breathing down and get my heart rate lower and then the tears flooded; I couldn’t control it. I just weeped and felt so stupid.

I eventually got a grip and he tried to do some other treatment. It was all a bit of a blur but I remember him asking me if I was comfier sitting up or lying down. Normally I’d immediately say lying down because of my lower back pain, but by this point, even lying down was hurting. And then I blubbered again. I just moaned “I don’t know” in answer to his question. I think by this point he was starting to be a little concerned.

Time for a glass of sugary water and some ice

I was holding my neck and complained that the pain was there every time I moved. I couldn’t even move my arms without the pain kicking in. How the hell was I going to drive home? I started to panic some more and the physio told me to take deep breaths and rest against a mountain of pillows behind me.

He went to get me a glass of water and came back with a mix of water, juice and some sugar to help do something. I wasn’t quite sure what, but I think it was to help me calm down and get my blood pressure up. He also lifted my legs in the air and wiggled them around. Again, I think this was to increase my blood pressure to try and get rid of the fainting feeling.

My treatment time was up so he had to go and see to another patient. He got me some ice for my neck because the muscles had gone in to spasm which is why it was so painful, and told me to relax and he’ll pop back in 5 to 10 minutes to make sure I was ok.

Was I ok?

I was finally starting to calm down but I was so embarrassed. I just wanted to cry and run out the door, but a) there was probably the risk that I’d still faint, and b) I still had to pay before I left.

To be fair to the physio , he was really good. He popped back a couple of times and when it was time to get up and go (finally!) I apologised profusely. He said this is all normal after the needling, so I didn’t need to worry. Well, that was easier said than done.?Thankfully before I ran out the treatment room door he told me that next time they’ll do some hand treatment and not the needling. I may just go back now knowing this.

Have you had needling before? How did you find it? Was it painful? And did it help your pain? Feel free to get in touch or comment below.

Read my follow up blog post Why it’s important to trust your physiotherapist

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32 thoughts on “The day I cried at my needling appointment

  1. Karen says:

    I’ve had dry needling once (In a hospital, fully trained and licensed Dr) and I found it horrendous. Interesting to hear your crying and almost emotional reaction…I was the same the first time I had it and it really freaked me out. Almost like it opened some weird floodgate of emotion? I was shaking so much during it that she pulled the needle out sooner than normal, or so she explained. Now I really wonder about the science behind this. ..thanks for your blog!

    • Alice says:

      Thank you for your comment and sharing your experience of needling. I’ve read this before, about the emotion stuff. I must admit, I’ve not been back for another go – they keep mentioning needling at my physio sessions, and I’m like “nope”.

  2. John Quintner says:

    “Dry needling” is in my opinion fraudulent practice as it is based on myofascial pain/trigger point theory that has been refuted and exposed as speculation. Moreover, any benefit therefrom can be attributed to the well known phenomenon of counter-irritation analgesia, together with the ubiquitous contextual factors.

  3. Katrin says:

    That sounds like a nightmare. I can’t get my head around the idea of getting rid of pain by causing pain when there are painfree eductional options like Somatic Movement Education.

  4. Luke says:

    That sounds like dry needling. If done well it?s not too bad. It sounds like your Physio was wayyyy too aggressive with the needles. Good practitioners will monitor and check in with patient and adjust their technique to make sure that you don?t experience pain like that. Fainting can happen from time to time but it?s definitely not ?a normal reaction ?. I much prefer acupuncture though. Acupuncturists have a lot more techniques up their sleeve to deal with musculoskeletal issues. Find yourself a good acupuncturist or at least a Physio that knows how to do dry needling with more care. Good luck with it as needling can do wonders if done with skill.

    • Alice says:

      Hi Luke. Imthink even my physio realised it was too aggressive. We are trying different things now as I?m not ready to try it again so soon. Thank you for your comments.

  5. Brianna says:

    This is NOT a normal experience. Please be careful to only get ?needled? by qualified Licensed Acupuncturists. Weekend long seminars in ?Dry Needling? by PTs is not sufficient training and can, unfortunately, result in trauma and harm to patients. Very sorry you had to go through this.

    • Alice says:

      My physio is definitely licensed and we are trying different treatment now as we both know that wasn?t the best for me. Thank you for your comments and concern though, very kind of you.

  6. alex says:

    hi there. it is horrible hearing that you suffered so much. may i knw do you get better after the session (probably after few days?()

    or it get worse?

    • Alice says:

      Hi Alex. I?ve only had one needling session, and I honestly believe it has helped relieve my pain a little. We are now trying different treatment though as it was certainly too abrupt. But even now I am slowly seeing results.

  7. Virginia Mills says:

    Go to a licensed acupuncturist that uses distal points (leg and arm points) first. Some points might be uncomfortable on insertion, but that should be only for several seconds. It depends on how much flesh is in that area. Trigger point release is a shocking painful feeling, but only for a second. Then the muscle relaxes and you should feel better. You may be sore for a day or two. A thoroughly trained acupuncturist would not treat you that way, physically or emotionally.

    • Alice says:

      Hi Virginia. Thank you for your comments and suggestions. I?ll ask about distal points. I?m having different treatment now as we realise it wasn?t the best option.

  8. Jasmine says:

    Only have a licensed acupuncturist needle you. PT?s doing dry needling are not acupuncturists. It should not be this painful!

    • Alice says:

      My physio is definitely licensed and we are trying different treatment now as we both know that wasn?t the best for me. Thank you for your comments and concern though, very kind of you.

      • Jasmine says:

        Your physio is licensed in physiotherapy, not in acupuncture. He may have taken a weekend course or a 1-3 month training but acupuncturists learn needling for 3-4 years. It?s a big difference. Needling should never cause the level of pain you described. Your physio should stickbto physiotherapy and let acupuncturists do the needling. Best of luck to you on your healing journey.

  9. Danielle says:

    Try acupuncture instead – from someone who is licensed! It is great at relieving neck pain, doesn?t hurt at all and is very relaxing. And you lie down during it. Physical therapists are not properly trained to be using needles, I would rather be safe and see someone with adequate training.

    • Alice says:

      Hi Danielle. My physio is definitely licensed and we are trying different treatment now as we both know that wasn?t the best for me. Thank you for your comments and concern though, very kind of you.

  10. Stacey says:

    Wow. I am a massage therapist with a needling qualification and I persoanlly would NEVER allow a client to co tinue with that level of discomfort or trauma! I am so sorry you went through that, it is completely not okay in my mind. I would personally find it very difficult to return to someone after this experience. Go with your gut feeling on this. You need to be able to trust your therapist!

    • Alice says:

      Hello Stacey. Thank you for your comments and concern, it?s very kind of you. I nearly didn?t go back if I?m honest, but I?ve continued to work with them and we are trying different things. I?m writing a new blog post about it, so watch this space. Thanks again.

  11. Stephen S. Rodrigues, M.D. says:

    I’ve practiced every aspect of Needling 20 year of my 35 year board certified Family Practice career to conclude acupuncture the discipline is a profound volume in the encyclopedia of Healers. The tools of acupuncture are various thin filament needles which are the most important device ever created by man to help human suffering.

    The discipline of acupuncture has been tainted.

    The acupuncture needling has also been tainted. In some medical societies if you mention acupuncture people we’ll look at you like you just spat on them.

    Why? For a half a century the American Medical association’s and societies have subverted every aspect of what it takes to treat muscle and myofascial tissues.

    Google AMA vs chiropractor and you’ll find that the American Medical Association have been convicted of organized criminal behaviors.
    Chiropractors are masterful Hands-On muscle release Therapies. I should say chiropractor were Mastiffs oh my soul release therapies because over the past 50 years their discipline has been tainted.

    Travell-Simons, I called these two the modern matriarch and patriarch of Medicine perfected the only way to help heal intramuscular microscopic wounds and scars myofacial tissues which is chronic pain.

    No one should have to live in chronic pain chronic misery chronic dysfunction crippling miserable syndromes because we have a cure.

    It is true that acupuncture hurts the needles hurt that’s normal it supposed to feel but it’s not supposed to be painful.

    Unfortunately over the past 50 years there are very few masters of the use of acupuncture needles because they have almost been wiped out and are almost extinct.

    There are dozens of ways to make someone comfortable as you are working on placing the needles. Placing the needles is just the beginning because acupuncture is literally massage. Again a well trained practice needle specialist will believe you feeling vitalized.

    Dry needling are very very narrowly educated and trained I would consider it a disgrace knowing what I know it’s a trick to drive you away.

    If you would like more information Follow My Links or ask thank you
    Excuse the typos I’m doing this on my phone so it’s a little bit trickier

    • Alice says:

      Hello Stephen. Thank you for your comments and no worries about the typos. I understand my blog has caused a little discussion, and I will certainly be researching the advice and suggestions. I?m writing a new post to provide an update and hopefully answer the questions people have asked me. Thanks again.

    • Alice says:

      Ha ha – I like you?re thinking! I had some more physio this week and they did some cupping instead – it was painful but not as bad as the needling, thankfully.

  12. Emmalene says:

    Oh my poor you! As someone who cries frequently during my dental hygienist sessions I can sympathise a little but this sounds like absolute torture 🙁

  13. Shailaja says:

    How horrible! I hope you don’t have to get it done again. This sounds very painful indeed. I was reading through and keeping you in my prayers that it was all okay at the end !

    Please take a second opinion before going back!

  14. Hayley says:

    Gosh that sounds quite traumatic. I have had needling before. The first time, I had a panic attack. Then all the other times, I found it easy. Maybe the first time is always the worse!

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