Dry-needling and exercise for chronic whiplash-associated disorders

This randomized controlled trial examined the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of dry-needling and exercise compared with sham dry-needling and exercise for chronic whiplash-associated disorders (WAD). The setting was a single university centre and 4 physiotherapy practices in Queensland, Australia. Eighty patients with chronic WAD (>3 months) were enrolled between June 2009 and August 2012 with 1-year follow-up completed in August 2013. The interventions were 6 weeks of dry-needling to posterior neck muscles (n = 40) and exercise or sham dry-needling and exercise (n = 40). The primary outcomes of the Neck Disability Index (NDI) and self-rated recovery were measured at baseline, 6 and 12 weeks, 6 and 12 months by a blinded assessor. Analysis was intention to treat. An economic evaluation was planned but missing data deemed further analysis unwarranted. Seventy-nine patients (99%) were followed up at 6 weeks, 78 (98%) at 12 weeks, 74 (93%) at 6 months, and 73 (91%) at 12 months. The dry-needling and exercise intervention was more effective than sham dry-needling and exercise in decreasing disability at 6 and 12 months but not at 6 and 12 weeks. The treatment effects were small and not clinically worthwhile. At 6 weeks, the treatment effect on the 0-100 NDI was -0.3 (95% confidence interval -5.4 to 4.7), 12 weeks -0.3 (-5.2 to 4.9), 6 months -4.4 (-9.6 to -0.74), and 12 months -3.8 (-9.1 to -0.5). There was no effect for self-rated recovery.

In patients with chronic WAD, dry-needling and exercise was not found to have any clinically valuable effects over sham dry-needling and exercise.

Neck Pain

Out of all 291 conditions studied in the Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study, neck pain ranked 4th highest in terms of disability and 21st in terms of overall burden.

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