Effectiveness of dry needling on reducing pain intensity in patients with myofascial pain syndrome: a Meta-analysis

J Tradit Chin Med. 2016 Feb;36(1):1-13. doi: 10.1016/s0254-6272(16)30001-2.


Objective: To summarize the literature about the effectiveness of dry needling (DN) on relieving pain and increasing range of motion (ROM) in individuals with myofascial pain syndrome (MPS).

Methods: Papers published from January 2000 to January 2013 were identified through an electronic search in the databases MEDLINE, Dialnet, Cochrane Library Plus, Physiotherapy Evidence Data-base (PEDro) and Spanish Superior Council of Scientific Research (CSIC). The studies included were randomized controlled trials written in English and/or Spanish about the effectiveness of DN on pain and ROM in individuals with MPS.

Results: Out of 19 clinical trials that were potentially relevant, a total of 10 were included in the Meta-analysis. Regarding pain intensity reduction when measured before and immediately after the intervention, DN achieved improvement compared with the placebo treatment [d = - 0.49; 95% CI (- 3.21, 0.42)] and with the control group [d = - 9.13; 95% C (- 14.70, - 3.56)]. However, other treatments achieved better results on the same variable compared with DN, considering the measurements for pre-treatment and immediately after [d = 2.54; 95% CI (- 0.40, 5.48)], as well as the pre-treatment and after 3-4 weeks [d = 4.23; 95% CI (0.78, 7.68)]. DN showed a significantly increased ROM when measured before the intervention and immediately after, in comparison with the placebo [d = 2.00; 95% C (1.60, 2.41)]. However, other treatments achieved a significant better result regarding ROM when it was measured before the intervention and immediately after, as compared with DN [d = - 1.42; 95% CI (- 1.84, - 0.99)].

Conclusion: DN was less effective on decreasing pain comparing to the placebo group. Other treatments were more effective than DN on reducing pain after 3-4 weeks. However, on increasing ROM, DN was more effective comparing to that of placebo group, but less than other treatments.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / therapy*
  • Pain Management