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J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017 Mar;47(3):133-149.

The Effectiveness of Trigger Point Dry Needling for Musculoskeletal Conditions by Physical Therapists: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

Study Design Systematic review and meta-analysis. Background An increasing number of physical therapists in the United States and throughout the world are using dry needling to treat musculoskeletal pain. Objective To examine the short- and long-term effectiveness of dry needling delivered by a physical therapist for any musculoskeletal pain condition. Methods Electronic databases were searched. Eligible randomized controlled trials included those with human subjects who had musculoskeletal conditions that were treated with dry needling performed by a physical therapist, compared with a control or other intervention. The overall quality of the evidence was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation. Results The initial search returned 218 articles. After screening, 13 were included. Physiotherapy Evidence Database quality scale scores ranged from 4 to 9 (out of a maximum score of 10), with a median score of 7. Eight meta-analyses were performed. In the immediate to 12-week follow-up period, studies provided evidence that dry needling may decrease pain and increase pressure pain threshold when compared to control/sham or other treatment. At 6 to 12 months, dry needling was favored for decreasing pain, but the treatment effect was not statistically significant. Dry needling, when compared to control/sham treatment, provides a statistically significant effect on functional outcomes, but not when compared to other treatments. Conclusion Very low-quality to moderate-quality evidence suggests that dry needling performed by physical therapists is more effective than no treatment, sham dry needling, and other treatments for reducing pain and improving pressure pain threshold in patients presenting with musculoskeletal pain in the immediate to 12-week follow-up period. Low-quality evidence suggests superior outcomes with dry needling for functional outcomes when compared to no treatment or sham needling. However, no difference in functional outcomes exists when compared to other physical therapy treatments. Evidence of long-term benefit of dry needling is currently lacking. Level of Evidence Therapy, level 1a.

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Acupunct Med. 2017 Apr;35(2):85-92.

Therapeutic effects of dry needling in patients with upper trapezius myofascial trigger points.


Active myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) are major pain generators in myofascial pain syndrome. Dry needling (DN) is an effective method for the treatment of MTrPs.


To assess the immediate neurophysiological and clinical effects of DN in patients with upper trapezius MTrPs.


This was a prospective, clinical trial study of 20 patients with upper trapezius MTrPs and 20 healthy volunteers (matched for height, weight, body mass index and age), all of whom received one session of DN. Primary outcome measures were neuromuscular junction response (NMJR) and sympathetic skin response (SSR). Secondary outcomes were pain intensity (PI) and pressure pain threshold (PPT). Data were collected at baseline and immediately post-intervention.


At baseline, SSR amplitude was higher in patients versus healthy volunteers (p<0.003). With respect to NMJR, a clinically abnormal increment and normal reduction was observed in patients and healthy volunteers, respectively. Moreover, PPT of patients was less than healthy volunteers (p<0.0001). After DN, SSR amplitude decreased significantly in patients (p<0.01), but did not change in healthy volunteers. A clinically important reduction in the NMJR of patients and increment in healthy volunteers was demonstrated after DN. PPT increased after DN in patients, but decreased in healthy volunteers (p<0.0001). PI improved after DN in patients (p<0.001).


The results of this study showed that one session of DN targeting active MTrPs appears to reduce hyperactivity of the sympathetic nervous system and irritability of the motor endplate. DN seems effective at improving symptoms and deactivating active MTrPs, although further research is needed.


Acupunct Med. 2017 Mar;35(1):69-74.

Effects of myofascial trigger point dry needling in patients with sleep bruxism and temporomandibular disorders: a prospective case series.


To investigate the effects of deep dry needling (DN) of myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) of the masseter and temporalis on pain, pressure pain threshold (PPT), pain-free maximal jaw opening and temporomandibular disorder (TMD)-related disability in patients with sleep bruxism (SB) and myofascial TMD.


Seventeen subjects (11 women, 6 men) aged 39±13 years (range 23-66) diagnosed with SB and myofascial TMD were invited to participate in this prospective case series study. Each subject received a deep DN intervention in the masseter and temporalis MTrPs. Pain intensity, PPT, pain-free maximal jaw opening and TMD-related disability were assessed before treatment, immediately after treatment and at 1-week follow-up. Jaw disability was assessed using the jaw disability checklist (JDC) at baseline and 1 week post-treatment only.


One-way analyses of variance showed significant improvements in pain intensity, PPT and jaw opening (p<0.001). Post-hoc analysis revealed significant differences between baseline and post-intervention follow-up time points in pain (immediate: Cohen's d=1.72, p<0.001; 1 week: d=3.24, p<0.001), jaw opening (immediate: d=0.77, p<0.001; 1 week: d=1.02, p<0.001) and PPT in the masseter (immediate: d=1.02, p<0.001; 1 week: d=1.64, p<0.001) and temporalis (immediate: d=0.91, p=0.006; 1 week: d=1.8, p<0.001). A dependent t-test showed a significant improvement in jaw functioning, reflected by a large reduction in 1-week JDC scores relative to baseline (d=3.15, p<0.001).


Deep DN of active MTrPs in the masseter and temporalis in patients with myofascial TMD and SB was associated with immediate and 1-week improvements in pain, sensitivity, jaw opening and TMD-related disability.