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For Muenster resident Charles Barfknecht, his personal journey with pain has been a long one. It has been 50 years since a horse rolled over with him at the age of 19, crushing vertebrae in his lower back and beginning a battle with his body that he wondered if he would ever win.
“My neck was a mess,” Barfknecht said. “It looked inhuman.”
Those who know the champion saddle builder and leather craftsman might not be aware of the intense pain suffered by Barfknecht over the years, as he has maintained an active
lifestyle of rancher, craftsman and community leader without complaint. When he went in for surgery in November 2014, it had simply become too much.
Bone was taken from his hip and used to build two discs, which were fused into his lower back. From there, Barfknecht began a
rigorous program of traditional physical therapy aimed at relieving pain that started under the shoulder, down the arm and caused numbness in his fingers.
“PT was making a difference,” Barfknecht stated. “But it was slow.”
That’s when Muenster Memorial Hospital physical therapist Eve Huska decided to consult with her fellow therapists at MMH’s Rehabilitation Center about options. “We were not getting him the pain relief he needed with physical therapy alone,” Huska noted.
During the discussion, physical therapist Cheryl Moore mentioned that she had recently trained in a new therapy technique called dry needling. If Mr. Barfknecht was willing, she thought it could offer some relief from the knots and tightness he was experiencing in his neck and shoulders.
Moore explained that it was similar to acupuncture in that it uses needles, but the similarity stops there. “Acupuncture uses meridians of the body to target pain or other conditions,” she explained. “Dry needling goes directly to the source.”
Since the therapy is so targeted to muscles, tendons and ligaments, it is excellent for a variety of conditions, including fibromyalgia, arthritis, post-‐surgical pain, chronic pain, and orthopedic concerns, such as tennis elbow, ligament injuries that are slow to heal, tendon tears and hamstring injuries.
“There is a wide range of uses,” Cheryl said. “It is a procedure that physical therapists have
used for over two decades, but now it is gaining more recognition in the physical therapy world. Centers who offer needling in this area are few.”
Frequency can be from weekly to several times a week, depending on tolerance. Barfknecht agreed to try the dry needling technique on a Tuesday. By Thursday, he was a
believer. “I usually don’t appreciate someone coming at me with a needle,” he laughed, “but this was amazing!”
He noted that there was no pain with the needles and that there was immediate relief. His therapists noticed the difference too. “Mr. Barfknecht was like concrete prior to the
procedure – afraid to move,” Cheryl noted. “By the next appointment, there was no pain and he was in motion again.”
Barfknecht said when the needle entered the target area, it was like a bolt of energy moved down his arm into his fingers. “I could not believe how quick the change was. It made a world of difference and I would highly recommend it to others.”
However, dry needling is not for everyone, Cheryl warns. Patients with bleeding disorders, loss of sensation and needle phobias would not be good candidates.
Another patient, who preferred not to be identified, was not shy when recommending the procedure. She was one of the first to use it at MMH, having come from the metroplex, where she used it previously. She undergoes the procedure for reduction of pain and inflammation caused by fibromyalgia, a chronic condition, and arthritis in her neck. “It’s just a little stick,” she commented while the therapist inserted needles at the base of her skull. “It provides so much relief.”
Barfknecht underwent a couple of treatments, finished his traditional therapy to build strength and returned to his life on the ranch, knowing he can come back for “tune up” treatments if needed. “We need to keep the program going,” he concluded. “I’m sure glad it was here for me.”
For more information on dry needling or the other advanced therapies available at Muenster
Memorial Hospital, call (940) 759-‐6198.
About Cheryl Moore
Cheryl has been a physical therapist for 20 years. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma Physical Therapy School. She is currently finishing her Doctorate of Science through Texas Tech (PhD in Physical Therapy). She has received extra training and certifications in treating patients with NDT (neurodevelopmental treatment), orthopedic manual therapy, and lymphedema. She chose to go through the Dry Needling coursework, practicums, and examinations to receive her Dry Needling Certification with the IAOM (International Academy of Orthopedic Medicine) because it is a quick and effective pain management tool for her patients.
Dry needling involves the insertion of a filament needle into a muscle in the area of the body producing pain. It typically contains a “trigger” point, which is manipulated to reduce irritation and inflammation. There is no injectable solution and typically the needle that is used is very thin. The needles are of varying lengths in order to reach the depth of the muscle being manipulated.