This randomized clinical trial was conducted with the goal of determining the effects of trigger point dry needling (TrP-DN) on neck pain, widespread pressure pain sensitivity, and cervical range of motion in patients with acute mechanical neck pain and active trigger points (TrPs) in the upper trapezius muscle. TrP-DN appears to be effective for decreasing pain in individuals with upper quadrant pain syndromes. Potential effects of TrP-DN for decreasing pain and sensitization in individuals with acute mechanical neck pain are needed. Seventeen patients (53% females) were placed at random into 1 of 2 groups: single session of TrP-DN or no intervention (waiting list). Pressure pain thresholds (PPTs) over the C5-C6 zygapophyseal joint, second metacarpal, and tibialis anterior muscle, neck pain intensity, and cervical spine range of motion data were collected at baseline (pre-treatment) and 10 minutes and 1-week post intervention by an assessor blinded to the treatment allocation of the patient. Mixed-model ANOVAs were used to examine the effects of treatment on each outcome variable. Patients treated with 1 session of TrP-DN experienced greater decreases in neck pain, greater increases in PPT, and higher increases in cervical range of motion than those who did not receive an intervention both 10 minutes and 1-week after the intervention (P<0.01 for all comparisons). Between-groups effect sizes were medium to large immediately after TrP-DN session (standardized mean score differences [SMDs] > 0.56) and large at the 1-week follow-up (SMDs > 1.34).
The results of this randomized clinical trial indicated that a single session of TrP-DN decreases neck pain intensity and widespread pressure sensitivity, as well as increasing active cervical range of motion in patients with acute mechanical neck pain. Changes in pain, PPT, and cervical range of motion surpassed their respective minimal detectable change values supporting clinically relevant treatment effects.