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. The objective of this study was 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.