PainSci commentary on Gattie 2021: ?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.
This is a study of “dry needling,” the practice of lancing trigger points with acupuncture needles. It was a little more powerful than we usually get, and in particular it had good follow-up: they checked with their subjects at 4 weeks, 6 months, and a full year. Seventy-seven people with neck pain were assigned to one of two groups, one with sham needling, and another with the real deal. They all got standard “manual therapy and exercise.” Their conclusion is so clear that it needs no translation:
There were no differences in outcomes between trigger point dry needling and sham dry needling when added to a multimodal treatment program for neck pain. Dry needling should not be part of a first-line approach to managing neck pain.
~ Paul Ingraham
original abstract †Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.
Objective: To examine the short- and long-term effectiveness of dry needling on disability, pain, and patient-perceived improvements in patients with mechanical neck pain when added to a multimodal treatment program that includes manual therapy and exercise. Design: Randomized controlled trial. Methods: Seventy-seven adults (mean ± SD age, 46.68 ± 14.18 years; 79\% female) who were referred to physical therapy with acute, subacute, or chronic mechanical neck pain were randomly allocated to receive 7 multimodal treatment sessions over 4 weeks of (1) dry needling, manual therapy, and exercise (needling group); or (2) sham dry needling, manual therapy, and exercise (sham needling group). The primary outcome of disability (Neck Disability Index score) and secondary outcomes of pain (current and 24-hour average) and patient-perceived improvement were assessed at baseline and follow-ups of 4 weeks, 6 months, and 1 year by blinded assessors. Between-group differences were analyzed with a 2-way, repeated-measures analysis of variance. Global rating of change was analyzed with a Mann-Whitney U test. Results: There were no group-by-time interactions for disability (Neck Disability Index: F2.37,177.47 = 0.42, P = .69), current pain (visual analog scale: F2.84,213.16 = 1.04, P = .37), or average pain over 24 hours (F2.64,198.02 = 0.01, P = .10). There were no between-group differences for global rating of change at any time point (P≥.65). Both groups improved over time for all variables (Neck Disability Index: F2.37,177.47 = 124.70, P<.001; current pain: F2.84,213.16 = 64.28, P<.001; and average pain over 24 hours: F2.64,198.02 = 76.69, P<.001). Conclusion: There were no differences in outcomes between trigger point dry needling and sham dry needling when added to a multimodal treatment program for neck pain. Dry needling should not be part of a first-line approach to managing neck pain.
This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:
- Photobiomodulation therapy is not better than placebo in patients with chronic nonspecific low back pain: a randomised placebo-controlled trial. Guimarães 2021 Pain.
- No effect of creatine monohydrate supplementation on inflammatory and cartilage degradation biomarkers in individuals with knee osteoarthritis. Cornish 2018 Nutr Res.
- The CANBACK trial: a randomised, controlled clinical trial of oral cannabidiol for people presenting to the emergency department with acute low back pain. Bebee 2021 Med J Aust.
- Relationships Between Sleep Quality and Pain-Related Factors for People with Chronic Low Back Pain: Tests of Reciprocal and Time of Day Effects. Gerhart 2017 Ann Behav Med.
- Modulation in the elastic properties of gastrocnemius muscle heads in individuals with plantar fasciitis and its relationship with pain. Zhou 2020 Sci Rep.