Adverse events following trigger point dry needling: a prospective survey of chartered physiotherapists

J Man Manip Ther. 2014 Aug;22(3):134-40. doi: 10.1179/2042618613Y.0000000044.


Objectives: Trigger point dry needling (TrP-DN) is commonly used to treat persons with myofascial pain, but no studies currently exist investigating its safety. The aim of this study was to determine the incidence of Adverse Events (AEs) associated with the use of TrP-DN by a sample of physiotherapists in Ireland.

Methods: A prospective survey was undertaken consisting of two forms recording mild and significant AEs. Physiotherapists who had completed TrP-DN training with the David G Simons Academy (DGSA) were eligible to take part in the study. Data were collected over a ten-month period.

Results: In the study, 39 physiotherapists participated and 1463 (19.18%) mild AEs were reported in 7629 treatments with TrP-DN. No significant AEs were reported giving an estimated upper risk rate for significant AEs of less than or equal to (≤) 0.04%. Common AEs included bruising (7.55%), bleeding (4.65%), pain during treatment (3.01%), and pain after treatment (2.19%). Uncommon AEs were aggravation of symptoms (0.88%), drowsiness (0.26%), headache (0.14%), and nausea (0.13%). Rare AEs were fatigue (0.04%), altered emotions (0.04%), shaking, itching, claustrophobia, and numbness, all 0.01%.

Discussion: While mild AEs were very commonly reported in this study of TrP-DN, no significant AEs occurred. For the physiotherapists surveyed, TrP-DN appeared to be a safe treatment.

Keywords: Adverse events; Dry needling; Myofascial pain.