Objective: To investigate the changes in pressure pain threshold of the secondary (satellite) myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) after dry needling of a primary (key) active MTrP.
Design: Single blinded within-subject design, with the same subjects serving as their own controls (randomized). Fourteen patients with bilateral shoulder pain and active MTrPs in bilateral infraspinatus muscles were involved. An MTrP in the infraspinatus muscle on a randomly selected side was dry needled, and the MTrP on the contralateral side was not (control). Shoulder pain intensity, range of motion (ROM) of shoulder internal rotation, and pressure pain threshold of the MTrPs in the infraspinatus, anterior deltoid, and extensor carpi radialis longus muscles were measured in both sides before and immediately after dry needling.
Results: Both active and passive ROM of shoulder internal rotation, and the pressure pain threshold of MTrPs on the treated side, were significantly increased (P < 0.01), and the pain intensity of the treated shoulder was significantly reduced (P < 0.001) after dry needling. However, there were no significant changes in all parameters in the control (untreated) side. Percent changes in the data after needling were also analyzed. For every parameter, the percent change was significantly higher in the treated side than in the control side.
Conclusions: This study provides evidence that dry needle-evoked inactivation of a primary (key) MTrP inhibits the activity in satellite MTrPs situated in its zone of pain referral. This supports the concept that activity in a primary MTrP leads to the development of activity in satellite MTrPs and the suggested spinal cord mechanism responsible for this phenomenon.