Dr. Wiegand earned his Bachelor’s in Science in Physiological Science in addition to a Doctorate in Chiropractic from Palmer West. He was the recipient of his class’ Virgil Strang Philosophy Award and holds a Certification in Spinal Trauma (CCST). In his early career, Dr. Wiegand focused on Spinal Corrective Techniques and rehabilitation. In private practice, the needs of his patients dictated that he branch out into treating a myriad of musculoskeletal injuries which led to expanding his interventions to include Dry Needling. He has over 100 hours of Dry Needling education, and he is the first Chiropractor and first recipient of the designation of SFDN (Structure and Function Dry Needling) Advanced Certification. He has performed this technique on thousands of patient visits and it continues to be an integral application in his Phoenix, AZ practice. Today, after 15 years of practice, Dr. Wiegand continues to see patients full-time, as well as promoting the Safe and Effective use of Dry Needling within the Chiropractic Profession.
As a Second Generation Chiropractor, I began my education earning a B.S. in Physiological Sciences at the University of Arizona. While at Palmer in San Jose, known for their focus on care for Athletes, I also became interested in technique systems with Evidence Based Spinal Biomechanics and Rehabilitation at their core. I was awarded my class’ Virgil Strang Philosophy Award, yet struggled to reconcile Chiropractic’s clear utility in Physical Medicine with the profession’s traditionalism towards promoting Wellism and general health (More on that below). After years of study under Burl Pettibon and Don and Deed Harrison, I practiced an amalgam of these technique systems in private practice. It was this relationship that led me to complete a year-long post-doctorate Certification in Spinal Trauma (CCST) with Dan Murphy which focused largely on pain, inflammation, injury biomechanics, and the management of traumatic soft tissue injuries. While associating for Christopher Colloca, the inventor of the Impulse, I became intimately aware of how important Chiropractic research and Evidence-Based practice was for the advancement of the profession and the quality of care for our patients.
Once in private practice, I quickly became aware that the vast majority of my patient base were Acute (“Doc! I hurt now! Make it stop now! I got stuff to do!”), Sub-Acute (“Doc, I know I should keep coming, but it feels good enough that I can do X again, so I’ll be back if and when it gets worse.”), and Chronic (“Doc. I know it’ll never be a zero. But, you buy me relief one week at a time.”) Despite my every effort to educate my patients on the necessity for ongoing Preventative and Maintenance care and no matter how many patient lectures, in-office education, or the advice of countless consultants, my office maintained a predictable demographic that consisted of these 3 patient types. I truly believed that I could improve someone’s health if they would just give me a chance to change their posture or spinal alignment. Unfortunately, I realized that the vast majority of these “Spinal Correction” interventions, while potentially helpful for many, were simply not what what his patients were seeking. Spinal Correction techniques are usually inappropriate for an Acute Patient, and the Sub-Acute and Chronic patient lack enough motivation to take 3 trips to your office each week for months. I had seen it done in other offices; but after 2 years I had given up trying to figure out why it wouldn’t work in mine. I was little more than what they call “Chiropractic Aspirin”; just treating pain and never delivering promise of better health. I really felt like I had failed and would live out my career like so many strip-mall pop-and-pray DC’s just assuaging minor aches and pains with Adjustments, Ice and Stim while referring out the tough stuff to either Physical Therapy who had the time and equipment I didn’t, or Pain Management because I couldn’t provide them the relief they wanted with the tools in my tool box. I had lost my purpose and I was seriously looking to do something else.
Thankfully, after one-too-many Deadlifts, I rediscovered my purpose!!!
After working out with a trainer one day, it became severely evident that I had injured my left Gluteus Medius Muscle to the point that seeing patients that day would be physically impossible. I hobbled into a Physical Therapist’s office with whom I had co-management patients for years. I was literally grasping the walls to stand up! This was the single worst pain I could remember. Am I going to end up disabled like my Chiropractor father had been at around my same age? I couldn’t afford to seek Pain Management even though I though for sure it was the only thing that could help this kind of pain. The DPT was my only hope. But, what could they do if I was unable to move or even be touched? If I had walked into my office at the time when all I had were Adjustments, Ice, Stim and a Scraping Tool, I wouldn’t know where to start with me.
I asked the fresh-from-school DPT what they could do to deliver enough relief that I could return to work for a few hours and I needed it to work right now! Sure, drugs could’ve helped with relief, but I didn’t have time and most of them would’ve meant I couldn’t work. How is this kid going to help me when I can’t even help me?
It was in that moment that I realized that I had just become every annoying patient who had ever walked in my office.
“I’m dying. You gotta save me. And I have 20 minutes. Go!”
He said, “We are going to try some Dry Needling.”
He could’ve said, “We’re going to stick your head in this lion’s mouth.” and I would’ve demanded at least 2 extra lions just in case the first one didn’t take.
He then proceeded to pull out a 100mm needle and a Point Stimulator; something I had seen once in Chiropractic school and immediately dismissed as just another pointless zappy thing that didn’t work. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t get on the table fast enough to let this young PT turn my left flank into a veritable kabob. The needle pierced the trigger point, which was excruciating yet relieving at the same time, not unlike a really good upper cervical adjustment when you have a headache. He then proceed to electrify the needle with the point stimulator until the muscle literally felt like it had just given up. The pain was about 80% better, and my hip mobility was so much improved that it took a while to regain my coordination. I wasn’t 100%, but I suddenly felt this feeling of hope that I may be able to actually see patients that day. In less than 10 minutes, I went from planning out my life as a disabled recluse, to visualizing a day in the near future I once again had no pain at all.
If I could do this for my patients, this quickly and this effectively, I could help so many more people with so many more injuries!!!
I always understood the pain, but had failed to empathize with the fear and psychology of being impaired because of it. My patients were coming to me because just like me, they were afraid of what their pain meant for their future. I was unappreciative of the relief I was delivering with my adjustments because I had put my own values of health and wellness above their values of just living life without fear of being disabled. If my patients felt 1/10 of the gratitude for me as I felt for this Harry Potter DPT with his magic Needles and Wands, I would be excited to see patients every day with the confidence I could do this amazing thing for them!!! I thought to myself…
“Crap. Everything in my office is going to have to change right now”
I immediately educated myself on Dry Needling. I signed up for classes with the first female trainer in MLB history, DPT, Sue Falsone. Even though I was a minority as one of only maybe a couple chiropractors in a classroom full of DPT’s, she showed us that even though we had different letters after our name, and competed for a lot of the same turf when it came to patients, that really we all wanted the same thing. We all had a desire to help our patients do more with Less Pain and Impairment. Our credentials were really just arbitrary to who we were as people. We loved talking about muscles, nerves, bones and joints. We all were obsessed with our patients’ care. Some of us were taking these skills and using them for professional athletes in the NFL, NBA or MLB. Some of us were going to use them to help the Elderly or Veterans. Some of us were going to bring it back to performers in Cirque Di Sole. Others were going to use Dry Needling for issues related to female health. I was going to use it to help just regular folks who injured themselves in a gym, playing sports, in a car accident or at work. I had never experienced this level of camaraderie in my own profession with the technique wars, the debates over “straights” and “mixers”. Spending time with DPT’s, OT’s and Trainers disabused myself of this ideology of philosophical purism. What makes us healers is not some devotion to our past or some veneration for our founders. Our common bond was serving our patients needs as they saw them…not how we necessarily want for them. I wanted to bring that back to my profession and share it.
Chiropractors have a unique opportunity to play a role in Pain Management and Functional Rehabilitation. We are uniquely inventive, compassionate, unconventional, and contrarian. That’s why Dry Needling is a logical addition to any DC’s practice. While the majority of Physical Medicine specialists must treat patients within the confines of upper management and hierarchical policies and procedures of a corporate environment, Chiropractors are known for being independent which is what those difficult patients need when they’re suffering in pain and “…need to be at work in 20 minutes!”
I want to make sure our profession can perform this service effectively, responsibly and most importantly…SAFELY.
This is a rare opportunity to expand the scope of your utility as a Doctor. Let’s take advantage of this new opportunity to help people by showing patients everywhere that when they walk in your office that your tool box has everything they need to start feeling and functioning better; faster. I don’t want your patients to say to their friends and family members, “You really need to see A chiropractor.” I want them to say, “You really need to see MY chiropractor.” Let Dry Needling be the thing that sets you apart. Learn how to do it in a friendly atmosphere where it’s presented slowly and safely to give you the confidence to return to patients ready to start Needling on Day 1!!!
I hope to see you at a class coming your way soon.