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Needless needles?

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

This study (Couto et al) found “significantly” better results from dry needling of trigger points. (That’s a method of lancing painful spots in muscle with acupuncture needles. To make them feel better. No, seriously, it’s actually a thing.) But that “significant” was the statistical sense of the term. The abstract actually neglects to mention how much better the results were, which usually means that the number wasn’t worth showing off. Sure enough, looking at the data, the decrease is just 2 points on a 10-point scale. That’s not nothing, but for someone who starts at a 6 or an 8, it’s not exactly a cure, is it? If it actually does work that “well” — assuming that these pro-IMS researchers (I’m speculating, but it’s very likely) didn’t make any mistakes or do anything that might have skewed the data towards their bias a little — is a 2-point drop actually worth the high cost and discomfort of this treatment? An open question.

“Paraspinal Stimulation Combined With Trigger Point Needling and Needle Rotation for the Treatment of Myofascial Pain: A Randomized Sham-controlled Clinical Trial”
Couto et al. The Clinical Journal of Pain. Volume , Number . Apr 2013.