Effectiveness of dry needling and injections of myofascial trigger points associated with plantar heel pain: a systematic review

J Foot Ankle Res. 2010 Sep 1;3:18. doi: 10.1186/1757-1146-3-18.


Background: Plantar heel pain (plantar fasciitis) is one of the most common musculoskeletal pathologies of the foot. Plantar heel pain can be managed with dry needling and/or injection of myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) however the evidence for its effectiveness is uncertain. Therefore, we aimed to systematically review the current evidence for the effectiveness of dry needling and/or injections of MTrPs associated with plantar heel pain.

Methods: We searched specific electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, AMED, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus and AMI) in April 2010 to identify randomised and non-randomised trials. We included trials where participants diagnosed with plantar heel pain were treated with dry needling and/or injections (local anaesthetics, steroids, Botulinum toxin A and saline) alone or in combination with acupuncture. Outcome measures that focussed on pain and function were extracted from the data. Trials were assessed for quality using the Quality Index tool.

Results: Three quasi-experimental trials matched the inclusion criteria: two trials found a reduction in pain for the use of trigger point dry needling when combined with acupuncture and the third found a reduction in pain using 1% lidocaine injections when combined with physical therapy. However, the methodological quality of the three trials was poor, with Quality Index scores ranging form 7 to 12 out of a possible score of 27. A meta-analysis was not conducted because substantial heterogeneity was present between trials.

Conclusions: There is limited evidence for the effectiveness of dry needling and/or injections of MTrPs associated with plantar heel pain. However, the poor quality and heterogeneous nature of the included studies precludes definitive conclusions being made. Importantly, this review highlights the need for future trials to use rigorous randomised controlled methodology with measures such as blinding to reduce bias. We also recommend that such trials adhere to the Standards for Reporting Interventions in Controlled Trials of Acupuncture (STRICTA) to ensure transparency.