In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, Dry Needling division leader Paul Killoren emphasizes the importance of using e-stim in conjunction with dry needling. This combination provides validation and helps the practitioner determine if the needle is in the muscle. Furthermore, using e-stim with needles can reduce post-treatment soreness, making it more approachable for patients. Paul also highlights research supporting the use of e-stim in various treatment goals, such as pain modulation, neuromuscular changes, tissue nourishment, nervous system accommodation, and somatosensory reorganization. Paul always recommends using e-stim after inserting the needle, as it offers multiple benefits for both the practitioner and the patient.
Take a listen to the podcast episode or read the full transcription below.
If you’re looking to learn more about courses designed to start your own practice, check out our Brick by Brick practice management course or our online physical therapy courses, check out our entire list of continuing education courses for physical therapy including our physical therapy certifications by checking out our website. Don’t forget about all of our FREE eBooks, prebuilt workshops, free CEUs, and other physical therapy continuing education on our Resources tab.
00:00 PAUL KILLOREN
Good morning. PT on Ice daily show streaming worldwide on Instagram and YouTube. I’m your host for the day, Paul Killoren, of the dry needling division for ice, and I’m hijacking the mic. Normally on Thursday for the PT on ICE Daily Show, we have practice management, we have leadership stuff, really inspiring messages from Jeff Moore, from Alan himself. I’m hijacking the mic and calling this Technique Thursday. We’re talking needles on a Thursday. dry needling division. Before I dive in, some pretty exciting updates. Our very first advanced dry needling course is going down January 12th to 14th. And we actually have a registration page up and live that has a little work to do. But the course is going to be ready and the very first advanced dry needling course for ice will be in Washington in Bellingham in January. And then having the upper, lower, and advanced course that will form the ICE dry needling certification. So again, our division’s not even a year old. We have had our upper and lower dry needling courses running across the country for almost 12 months. And this will be that final piece. So really exciting stuff coming out of the dry needling division. But I’m going to dive in, dive right in today.
01:58 – THE NEEDLE IS IN, NOW WHAT?
And the title of today’s episode is my needle is in, now what? And honestly, when I framed this topic, when I started to prep and form this discussion, in my mind, I pictured that novice clinician, I mean, you’re on your first dry needling course, you’re doing vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, glute medius multifidus, you learn the technique, the palpation, the anatomy, you’re looking for a bony contact, you get super excited, just like, oh, sweet. There’s the bone. That’s what I was looking for. Now what? So really, this is a question I’ve answered consistently on level one or kind of first dry needling courses for the last decade. But again, when I started to prep for this episode, there’s layers to this. And really, whether you’re a novice, an intermediate, or even an experienced dry needler, Sometimes it’s worth having this discussion of, our needle is in. Like first we learn how to do it safely, how to do it specifically, but our needle is in, now what? And to fully acknowledge, depending on who you listen to, how you were trained, the answer of, now what, will be very different. Because first of all, there’s that technical spectrum of, well, now we piston the needle, or now we twist the needle. Now we use e-stim. But even there, let’s say there’s a dosage spectrum of, okay, if I piston how many times? If I twist it for how long? If I just leave it there, what duration? If I use e-stim, what parameters? So again, I thought this would be a pretty easy, a pretty short, quick-hitting topic, but there’s layers to it. And first of all, let’s say that there is significant value to my needle is in a very specific target. Again, safety always comes first when you learn dry needling, but I think we also can acknowledge one of the benefits, one of the advantages of the needle as a clinical tool is we can be sniper precise. We can put a needle in semi-membranosis, in multifidus. You know, this is not necessarily a technique of broad stroking manual therapy of like, we’re doing the lateral hip, we’re doing the low back, we’re doing the SI region. To some degree, even a manipulation, we’re saying, you know, we’re not joint specific necessarily. We’re kind of giving input neurophysiologically to joint receptors and there’s more of a regional and global response to that. With a needle, I think we can just say, first of all, I have a needle in semimembranosus.
04:46 – THE BLESSING & THE CURSE OF NEEDLING
I mean, The blessing and the curse of needling is it keeps us honest, especially if we use e-stim. When you get that motor response, the needle’s telling you, it’s like, you know what, Paul? You’re not in semi-membranosis. You missed. You’re either like, you drifted subcutaneously or you missed superficially in tendinosis, you missed deep in adductor magnus. So first of all, I don’t wanna just like completely glaze over the fact that your needle is in a very specific target is a big part of the equation. I mean, for ice, for our dry needling, we teach safety for sure, but you as like highly educated, skilled clinicians, teaching you all how to be safe with a needle happens pretty quick. So our, our goals, our mantra with dry needling are be safe, be specific. Again, that’s, that’s a big part of using this needle as a tool and then be strategic. And that’s what I want to go to today, because again, the topic here is, my needle is in, now what? And again, let’s acknowledge that it depends, not just on how you’re trained, it depends on that patient on the table, on what is your goal for that session, what is the acuteness or the chronicity of the condition. So by no means do I want to make this sound easy, but I am going to give a very specific answer to this question. And again, I have previous training, I know the narratives out there of the needle is in, now we twist it for two minutes. Or the needle is in, now we just let it sit there. Or we pissed in it. And again, there are narratives, there is research, and there is benefit to each of those approaches. But I’m telling you that those aren’t the answers. Again, I have a pretty specific answer that I’m going to get to But I think I’ll torture you just a little bit longer by setting the stage. And really, I’m going to flashback, not even talking needling, I’m going to flashback to my DPT education. I went to Regis University, graduated in 2010. So what attracted me to Regist was Dr. Tim Flynn, Julie Whitman, Jim Elliott. I mean, big manual therapy specialists, but researchers of our day. So we finally, you know, you’re year one, year two, you finally get to that musculoskeletal management, you finally get to learn some manipulations from Tim Flynn and Julie Whitman. And you know, if you don’t remember how you started with manipulations, it wasn’t good. The hands were not skilled, like it wasn’t crispy right out of the gate. So you spend a half day, you practice on your classmates at home, and finally you’re like, man, I’m starting to feel like my hands have some skill. So imagine you are there, you’re learning manipulations, your hands are feeling more skilled. Imagine how disheartening it was for me, and I remember this day, when Dr. Tim Flynn stands up and says, you know what, you can teach a monkey how to manip. And I mean, He’s overgeneralizing, but the point is still true. He’s like, you can teach a monkey how to manipulate. It’s really how, like when to manipulate. Um, I guess how to apply it. There is skill there. We’ll acknowledge that. But then it’s what you do afterwards. So, I mean, that, that hit for me. And first of all, it’s like, Oh man, there are manipulating chimps out there that are doing this better than I am. And again, that wasn’t his point, but. But the point remains knowing when to use it, how to use it to some degree, but then the dosage and the follow through, the aftermath is really the true magic. That applies for dry needling as well. Again, can we teach a monkey how to put a needle randomly into tissue? For sure. Like there is not much needle skill to getting a needle interstitially, into muscle tissue. There is a skill to being more specific, and there is a skill to answering the dosage question, now what? And I’ll tell you now, without further ado, we have our needle or needles in. The answer to now what is e-stim. And you know, I don’t, you know, I kind of do the, you know, I was trained previously, I know the research, the narrative and the benefit to all the other approaches, but the answer today is eSTEM. And honestly, what makes me so confident in that is first of all, I have my own empirical anecdotal, like I was not using eSTEM, now I am. I have that sample size to make me confident. But what makes me more confident And it’s not even just the research, I’ll touch on that in a minute. But what makes me more confident is knowing or hearing that some of the other dry needling educators or other dry needling institutions in the US and worldwide that previously were saying there’s no additional value to e-stim with dry needling, or we’re essentially just doing tens through a needle, they’re now starting to use e-stim. And whether they use it the same way we do with ice, whether they explain it the same way, what they’re saying is there’s value to e-stim. And here’s what the research says, is our needles are in, now what? E-stim is the answer for almost any treatment intent. First of all, I mean, if you haven’t taken one of our upper or lower courses, we teach e-stim right out of the gate. I mean, day one, we learn how to use the unit, we get muscles to pump, Again, there’s high value when you first learn dry needling to using e-stim because it keeps you honest. Are you in that muscle? Are you not? But that immediately gives you some, I guess some validation, like I’m saying, but some grace. Because first of all, what we know is that if we use e-stim with our needles versus not, any sort of post-treatment, post-needle soreness will be much less. So there’s a very, um, a very real like patient approachability aspect to using e-stim. And there’s research to support that.
12:33 – E-STIM DOES IT BETTER
But beyond that, what if our treatment goal is not pain modulation? What if it’s neuromuscular changes? E-stim does it better. What if our goal is, tissue nourishment, blood flow, maybe venous return, lymphatic activation, edema evacuation. What if our goal is that? ESTIM does it better. What if our goal is nervous system accommodation? Or what if it’s getting the biggest, baddest neuropeptide or enkephalin, endorphin, but our pain modulating up top cortical response. What if that’s our goal? eSTIM does it better. What if we’re talking pain science and there’s some somatosensory reorganization, there’s some homuncular smudging that we would like to remap. We’d like to give a very profound and precise input to that homunculus, to that somatosensory cortex. eSTIM does it better. So again, these are, these are research based answers. Very real research that says group A just got needles, whether that was pistoning or placing or what have you, and then group B got e-stim. What was the difference? At this point, e-stim does it better. And really, that is the long and short of this episode. And again, I think to not minimize the impact of you have to learn how to put a needle in safely, There is significant value, especially with the needle, to say, my needle is in, very precisely, fill in the blank. My needle is in peroneus brevis. My needle is in extensor hallucis longus. My needle’s in glute minimus. There is significant value to the precision of that tool. But that’s only half the battle. My needle is in, excellent. That took some training, that took some some skill honestly that took some three years of doctorate level like anatomical training and education and awareness that took a lot to say my needle just contacted I guess the external ileum like we are at the depth and the location of glute minimus that’s awesome that you checked the box that is step one but if we don’t fill in the then what you’re leaving a lot on the table clinically And if you just logged on, the answer is eSTEM. So again, I know I see some of the names jumping on. Thanks for joining. I’m preaching to the choir, to some of you, because you’ve taken our upper or lower courses. We immediately talk about how to use eSTEM, the research behind eSTEM, and then we use it all weekend on the course. And it’s a different experience. I think eSTEM makes dry needling a little bit classier. We can be a little bit more classy with our needles when we use E-Stim. We can also be a little bit more dialed, a little more tactical with our treatment intent. Again, is your goal pain modulation? Is it neuromuscular changes? Is it blood flow? Is it just fluid dynamics of moving fluid? Excuse me. So that’s the answer for today. Again, jumping on on a Thursday for a Technique Thursday. We’re talking dry needling. And the question was, needle is in, now what? And the answer was Easton. Excuse me. So if that prompts any questions, again, this is a big piece of our curriculum. Drop some comments in the thread. Hit us up on Instagram. This is on YouTube as well, so you can throw some comments there. Again, my name is Paul Killoren of the dry kneeling division for ice. If you hopped on late, We are launching our advanced dry needling course in January. That’ll be the final piece of our upper dry needling, lower dry needling, and then advanced for the certification. If you’re in Washington State, that’ll be the third course of the series to allow us to dry needle as far as getting 75 hours. But if there’s anyone out there who is trained in needling, who is uncertain about using eStim or the benefit of eStim, first of all, I’ll just encourage you to try it. Like, there’s value there to hearing your patients explain the difference of using eStim or not. Otherwise, we have an online course if you already have the needle skills, you know how to put your needle in, but then what? If you don’t know how to use the eStim, there is an online course through ICE as well, eStim plus needles. That’s all I’ve got for today. Thanks for logging on. I’m incredibly proud of myself. This is my most concise, my most brief podcast topic, but it’s an easy one for me. So if you’re out there saying, what do we do after we put the needle in? I’m not saying there’s not value in twisting or pistoning or just static needling. There’s blood flow changes. There’s neuromuscular changes. There’s tissue disruptive like inflammatory cascade responses to all of that but the answer is e-stim and With that I’m logging off folks. Thanks for joining PT on ice daily show. See you next time
Hey, thanks for tuning in to the PT on Ice daily show. If you enjoyed this content, head on over to iTunes and leave us a review and be sure to check us out on Facebook and Instagram at the Institute of Clinical Excellence. If you’re interested in getting plugged into more ice content on a weekly basis while earning CEUs from home, check out our virtual ice online mentorship program at ptonice.com. While you’re there, sign up for our Hump Day Hustling newsletter for a free email every Wednesday morning with our top five research articles and social media posts that we think are worth reading. Head over to ptonice.com and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.