Hypothesis: Plantar heel pain (plantar fasciitis) is a common and disabling condition. A variety of treatment options are available to patients with plantar heel, however the evidence for these treatments is generally weak and the best way to manage plantar heel pain remains unclear. Trigger point dry needling is increasingly used as an adjunct therapy for musculoskeletal pain. In patients with plantar heel pain this technique is thought to improve muscle activation patterns, increase joint range of motion and alleviate pain. However, there have been no randomised controlled trials that have evaluated the effectiveness of dry needling for plantar heel pain.
Methods: In order to develop a treatment protocol to evaluate the effectiveness of dry needling for plantar heel pain we conducted a three stage modified Delphi process using a web-based survey technique. Over a series of three iterations, 30 experts (participants) worldwide indicated their level of agreement on specific issues relating to the use of dry needling for plantar heel pain including their treatment rationale, needling details and treatment regimen. Consensus for a dry needling protocol for plantar heel pain was achieved when >60% of participants (IQR ≤ 1.0 category on 5-point Likert scale) agreed the protocol was adequate.
Results: The response rate was 75% (n=30), 100% (n=30) and 93% (n=28) in the first, second and third rounds respectively. Round 1 helped generate a list of 10 items that were deemed important for developing a dry needling protocol for plantar heel pain. These 10 items were subsequently presented in Round 2. Of these, 5 of the 10 items met the criteria to be included in a dry needling protocol for plantar heel pain that was presented in the final round, Round 3. Items that did not meet the criteria were either removed or amended and then presented in Round 3. In the final round, 93% of participants (IQR range = 1) agreed the proposed dry needling protocol for plantar heel pain was adequate. The protocol can now be used in future research projects designed to evaluate the effectiveness of dry needling for plantar heel pain.