Carl kept me talking, as if doing so prevented me from screaming, and asked, “Have you ever tried acupuncture?” Having experimented with acupuncture once on a cruise (see my post from that experience) I wasn’t overly enthusiastic. However, this led to his introduction of “dry needling”. Curious phrase. Sounded cruel. Had I looked up the concept I would’ve learned that it was a close cousin to acupuncture but with more hard science and less mystique. It uses similar solid core (as opposed to hypodermic hollow core – “wet”) needles to probe trigger points for intramuscular stimulation in order to relieve muscle pain. While not common, it is used by trained physiotherapists for relief of golf and tennis elbow pain. Maybe it was to avoid the continued punishment by massage, but I quickly agreed to try it.
The needles were very thin. About the size of a human hair. Half the size of sewing thread. It was like using the smallest tattoo needle, but without the ink. Carl carefully marked the path of the offending muscle, although the angry red snake stretching down my forearm was easy to identify. Next, he tapped the 1 inch long (35mm) needles out of their storage tubes (like finger-propelled blow guns), through the skin and into the unsuspecting muscle. I half expected to hear the scream of a dragon that had been pierced through its neck by a sword. But there was no pain. No blood. Only a strange tingling sensation. As Carl tapped in the second and third needles into the burning muscle he explained that the procedure was like coaxing the muscle to relax, loosening its grip and resting a while.
Grasping the head of each small needle in turn he wound it about like an old style butter churn, withdrawing it slightly then plunging it deeper,moving it from side to side under the skin. I knew every time it hit the right place in the muscle when my arm gave a little twitch. It felt fine, just looked a little strange.
As I explained my Parkinson’s symptoms to Carl while he poked and prodded under the skin of my arm with those tiny needles I realized that very few people understand that Parkinson’s disease isn’t just tremors and stiffness. There can be real pain involved.