Dry Needling by Athletic Trainers
Dry needling is commonly used by a wide variety of practitioners, including physical therapists , occupational therapists , acupuncturists , chiropractors , physicians, dentists , veterinarians , and more recently athletic trainers , among others. In this blog, we will discuss the use of dry needling by athletic trainers.
Although it may make sense for athletic trainers to be able to use dry needling, several athletic trainers’ state boards have either not yet approved dry needling by athletic trainers, such as Tennessee (June 13, 2022), or do not have a defined position on the topic. At this time, the minimum education to become an athletic trainer is at the baccalaureate level, which brings into question whether the basic athletic training education is sufficient to cover the minimum amount of education in anatomy, physiology, pain science education, bloodborne pathogen protocols, neurophysiology, etc. to adequately master the 123 dry needling competencies that were identified in the Analysis of Competencies for Dry Needling by Physical Therapists . In 2015, the AT Strategic Alliance determined that the minimum professional degree level will be a master’s, but this transition has not yet been completed . Nevertheless, over 70 percent of athletic trainers hold at least a master’s degree.
Hortz et al. (2019) published an expert-opinion comparison of the competencies outlined in the “Analysis of Competencies for Dry Needling by Physical Therapists”  and the “2020 Standards for Accreditation of Professional Athletic Training Programs” , and the “Athletic Training Education Competencies – 5th Edition” . They concluded that “89% of the dry needling tasks were “provided through entry-level education” within the AT 5th Edition Competencies/will be taught through the CAATE 2020 Standards and 11% were not “provided through entry-level education” by AT 5th Edition Competencies/CAATE 2020 Standards and were therefore deemed ‘dry needling specific’.” According to Caramagno et al. (2015), 86% of the 123 competencies are included in the education of physical therapists. The instructors at Myopain Seminars commend the direction and efforts taken in establishing Athletic Training educational standards and competencies.
The National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) has issued a Dry Needling Fact sheet, confirming that “there is no profession-wide standard that defines athletic trainer competence in dry needling” . As was the case in physical therapy, we anticipate that eventually, a growing number of athletic training state boards will approve dry needling, but in the meantime, “athletic trainers must ensure their state practice act does not prohibit them from performing dry needling as part of the athletic training plan of care” . As a side note, the NATA Dry Needling Fact sheet is not completely up-to-date and appears to have been issued around a decade ago. More recently, the Board of Certification (BOC) for Athletic Trainers has approved Myopain Seminars as an approved continuing education provider (Approval Number P8248) and has awarded continuing education units for Myopain Seminars dry needling courses.
Myopain Seminars is an approved BOC continuing education provider.
Athletic Training: Prevention, Maintenance, and Performance Enhancement
Although athletic trainers are relatively new in offering dry needling to their clients, there is increasing evidence that athletes can benefit greatly from dry needling. Athletic training consists of treatment and care aimed at the prevention, maintenance, and performance enhancement of athletes. Dry needling has been shown to be an effective treatment in all aspects of athlete care , however, historically, athletic trainers have been restricted to superficial, nonspecific manual techniques with diminished results as compared to dry needling .
Many clinicians, including athletic trainers, may not realize that injuries are often the result of muscle overload, including sustained or repetitive low-level muscle contraction, eccentric muscle contractions, and maximal or submaximal concentric muscle contractions [14, 15]. Overuse injuries are very common among high school and other athletes . Muscle injuries represent 10% to 55% of all injuries in sports , which commonly are treated with thermal modalities, massage, or external devices, such as a foam roller. Muscle overload is one of the precursors of the development of trigger points, which can lead to muscle weakness , fatigue , and restricted movement [20, 21] affecting an athlete’s performance . As a side note, none of these parameters can be used to specifically detect trigger points. The performance of athletes can be significantly impacted by the presence of trigger points [22, 23].
Although there is not much research on the value of dry needling for injury prevention, there is much evidence that dry needling can contribute to increased performance [12, 21, 24, 25], recovery [26-29], and treatment of athletic injuries [22, 29-31]. Athletic trainers can play a major role in the well-being of athletes when they include dry needling.
Myopain Seminars Dry Needling Courses by Athletic Trainers
Myopain Seminars offers a dry needling course series designed for athletic trainers. Any athletic trainer interested in enhancing their client’s athletic performance should add dry needling to their toolbox. Of course, Myopain Seminars is the obvious choice!
Todd Hooks PT, ATC, OCS, SCS, MOMT, MTC, CSCS, CMTPT, NREMT-1, FAAOMPT
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2. Soyring, K. Dry Needling by Occupational Therapists. 2021 [cited 2022 August 15].
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8. AT Strategic Alliance. Strategic Alliance Degree Statement. 2015 [cited 2022 August 15]
9. Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education. (2018). 2020 Standards for the Accreditation of Professional Athletic Training Degree Programs. Austin, TX
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18. Bagcier, F., et al., The relationship between gluteus medius latent trigger point and muscle strength in healthy subjects. J Bodyw Mov Ther, 2022. 29: p. 140-145.
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20. Wilke, J., et al., Range of motion and cervical myofascial pain. J Bodyw Mov Ther, 2016. 20(1): p. 52-5.
21. Haser, C., et al., Effect of Dry Needling on Thigh Muscle Strength and Hip Flexion in Elite Soccer Players. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2017. 49(2): p. 378-383.
22. Osborne, N.J. and I.T. Gatt, Management of shoulder injuries using dry needling in elite volleyball players. Acupunct Med, 2010. 28(1): p. 42-45.
23. Ortega-Santiago, R., et al., Pressure pain hypersensitivity and referred pain from muscle trigger points in elite male wheelchair basketball players. Braz J Phys Ther, 2019.
24. Bandy, W.D., R. Nelson, and L. Beamer, Comparison of Dry Needling Vs. Sham on the Performance of Vertical Jump. Int J Sports Phys Ther, 2017. 12(5): p. 747-751.
25. Janowski, J.A., et al., Acute Effects of Dry Needling on Myofascial Trigger Points in the Triceps Surae of Ballet Dancers: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Int J Sports Phys Ther, 2021. 16(2): p. 418-430.
26. Ershad, N., et al., The effects of dry needling as a novel recovery strategy on quadriceps muscle fatigue: A pilot study. Journal of Iranian Medical Council, 2019. 2(6): p. 215-221.
27. Brewster, B.D., A.R.S. Valier, and S. Falsone, A Systematic Dry Needling Treatment Supports Recovery Post-Training for Division I Ice Hockey Athletes: An Exploration Case Series. J Athl Train, 2021.
28. Thompson, R., M. Prosell, and T. Timpka, Elite athletes’ experiences of musculoskeletal pain management using neuroanatomical dry needling: A qualitative study in Swedish track and field. J Sci Med Sport, 2021. 24(1): p. 46-51.
29. Lopez-Gonzalez, L., et al., Effects of Dry Needling on Neuromuscular Control of Ankle Stabilizer Muscles and Center of Pressure Displacement in Basketball Players with Chronic Ankle Instability: A Single-Blinded Randomized Controlled Trial. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2021. 18(4).
30. Gonzalez-Iglesias, J., et al., Multimodal management of lateral epicondylalgia in rock climbers: a prospective case series. J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 2011. 34(9): p. 635-42.
31. Paantjens, M.A., Dry needling en adductorenmanipulatie voor de behandeling van een voetballer met adductorgerelateerde liespijn. Ned Mil Genees Tijdschr, 2013. 66–61–68: p. 64-70.