University Health Center

The University Health Center is pictured on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The University Health Center has implemented dry needling as a new method for improving student well-being. 

The University Health Center began offering dry needling as a form of physical therapy in July. UHC physical therapist Kelsey Gaston said dry needling is a treatment that uses a small needle to penetrate a trigger point in a muscle in order to get the muscle to relax and release. 

Gaston said she wanted to implement dry needling after she took a class on the subject and thought the treatment would benefit students on campus. 

Dry needling can help students in a variety of ways, Gaston said. She said students with chronic tightness, headaches and injuries can all expect to see positive results through dry needling. 

Students in sports and activities, or those who are just physically active, can also use the treatment to alleviate aches and pains that would inhibit physical activity, she said.

“It is a really good resource for the students we treat in getting people back to their prior level of activity,” Gaston said. 

She said dry needling is different from acupuncture in terms of needle location, depth and results. 

“Acupuncture uses zones, meridians or neuromuscular implants that they’re going after, and they’re not going very deep into the muscle,” Gaston said. “With dry needling, we are going much deeper into the muscle tissue into those tight spots to create a response right there locally.”

UHC offers a variety of other physical therapy treatment options, such as aquatic therapy and individualized stretches.  

The office also offers cupping, in which special cups are used to create suction on the patient’s skin — instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization — which is used to treat scar tissue and inflammation, and kinesio taping, a cotton-nylon tape used on joints to increase physical performance. 

Manual therapy, a series of hand movements and joint movements intended to relax muscles, mechanical traction, an alternative to surgery for disk injuries that uses traction to increase the space between vertebrates, and neuromuscular re-education, exercises designed to alleviate problems from sore or damaged muscle tissue, are also offered at UHC. 

New patients can schedule an appointment for an initial evaluation; appointments thereafter are individually tailored for treatment of chronic pain, according to the UHC website.

Clinic manager Britt Otte said dry needling has already been successful on the students treated with it. UHC marketing strategist Aimee Grindstaff said about 40 students have used the treatment so far. 

Otte believes UNL students will benefit from having an additional physical therapy option due to the size of the student body.

“Our patients that have tried it have had great success with it,” Otte said. “We have a healthy population [at UNL], so having this as an alternate option is super helpful.”