Aims: To compare the effectiveness of dry needling in classically recognized acupuncture points ("acupuncture") with dry needling in skin areas not recognized as acupuncture points ("sham acupuncture") in reducing masseter muscle pain in a group of patients with myofascial pain of the jaw muscles.
Methods: Eighteen patients were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 experimental groups: Ten patients received acupuncture and 8 received sham acupuncture. A visual analog scale (VAS) was used to measure changes in masseter muscle pain evoked by mechanical stimulation of the masseter muscle before and after the experiment.
Results: Both groups showed a statistically significant reduction in VAS pain scores (P = .001). Seven out of 10 acupuncture subjects had a 10 mm or greater VAS reduction in pain, while 4 out of 8 of the sham acupuncture subjects had that great a pain reduction. There was no significant difference between the 2 groups.
Conclusion: Both acupuncture and sham acupuncture reduced pain evoked by mechanical stimulation of the masseter muscles in myofascial pain patients. However, this reduction in pain was not dependent on whether the needling was performed in standard acupuncture points or in other areas of the skin. These results suggest that pain reduction resulting from a noxious stimulus (i.e., needling) may not be specific to the location of the stimulus as predicted by the classical acupuncture literature.