Dry needle stimulation of myofascial trigger points evokes segmental anti-nociceptive effects

J Rehabil Med. 2010 May;42(5):463-8. doi: 10.2340/16501977-0535.


Objective: To test the hypothesis that dry needle stimulation of a myofascial trigger point (sensitive locus) evokes segmental anti-nociceptive effects.

Design: Double-blind randomized controlled trial.

Subjects: Forty subjects (21 males, 19 females).

Methods: Test subjects received intramuscular dry needle puncture to a right supraspinatus trigger point (C4,5); controls received sham intramuscular dry needle puncture. Pain pressure threshold (PPT) readings were recorded from right infraspinatus (C5,6) and right gluteus medius (L4,5S1) trigger points at 0 (pre-needling baseline), 1, 3, 5, 10 and 15 min post-needling and normalized to baseline values. The supraspinatus and infraspinatus trigger points are neurologically linked at C5; the supraspinatus and gluteus medius are segmentally unrelated. The difference between the infraspinatus and gluteus medius PPT values (PPTseg) represents a direct measure of the segmental anti-nociceptive effects acting at the infraspinatus trigger point.

Results: Significant increases in PPTseg were observed in test subjects at 3 (p = 0.002) and 5 (p = 0.015) min post-needling, compared with controls.

Conclusion: One intervention of dry needle stimulation to a single trigger point (sensitive locus) evokes short-term segmental anti-nociceptive effects. These results suggest that trigger point (sensitive locus) stimulation may evoke anti-nociceptive effects by modulating segmental mechanisms, which may be an important consideration in the management of myofascial pain.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Analgesia / methods*
  • Acupuncture Points
  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / therapy*
  • Needles
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold / physiology
  • Punctures / instrumentation