Soldiers at Fort Bragg have a new option for pain management. Over a dozen Army physicians and physicians assistants recently participated in a three-day seminar on dry needling, which uses systems- and organ systems-based techniques to alleviate pain.
The course was taught by instructors from Kinetacore, a continuing education organization that specializes in dry needle instruction.
“We’ve previously trained a lot on the Special Forces side, but now this is the first time we are teaching on the conventional side,” explained Edo Zylstra, founder, owner, CEO, and lead instructor, Kinetacore. “It’s pretty exciting to get this to the everyday Soldier.”
According to Zylstra, the most obvious benefit to dry needling is pain relief, but it can also increase range of motion and function.
“It hastens our ability to rehab the patient as well, and it allows us to get to movement-based therapy versus just pain control, which is really important,” he said. “So we aren’t just managing pain, we’re creating a solution forward to move into advancing rehab and returning the Soldier back to duty.”
Service members who come into sick call with any type of musculoskeletal injury, such as lower back or neck pain, can receive dry needling after the provider conducts an initial assessment to ensure more serious issues are not involved.
A typical session takes anywhere from five to 20 minutes, explained Zylstra. If properly diagnosed, benefits are immediate, but Soldiers may require additional sessions if there are multiple issues.
Participants couldn’t wait to implement the new techniques at their duty stations.
“I am so excited about this,” said Maj. Dawn Ruminski, department officer, 16th Military Police Brigade Surgeon. “This is just such a useful tool. This is going to help release the muscle, this is going to help release whatever it is that is structurally inhibiting function.”
Zylstra emphasized the importance of training rehab professionals as well.
“They are the extender then of the referral source oftentimes ... having that rehab basis allows them to make the changes on a long-term basis. This can be really effective short-term pain relief, movement-based stuff. But, once you change the movement, you need to reinforce the movement changed.”
Dry needling differs from acupuncture because it is based in western medicine and treats the site or source of a patient’s pain. In a dry needle assessment, providers check the nervous system, muscle function and movement, explained Zylstra.
“Reset, reinforce, reload — that was the most important thing for me,” said Ruminski.
She said the overall goal of implementing dry needling for conventional Fort Bragg Soldiers is maintaining and improving readiness.
“If we change our culture, we improve our patient health, which leads to readiness.”