Background: Trigger point dry needling (TDN) is commonly used to treat musculoskeletal pain related to myofascial trigger points (MTrPs). To date, no systematic review of high-quality randomised controlled trials (RCTs) investigating TDN to multiple body regions exists.
Purpose: The aim of this review is to determine the effectiveness of TDN based on high-quality RCTs for all body regions.
Methods: To ensure thorough reporting, Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were followed as the methodological basis for this systematic review. PubMed, Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro), Cinahl, Cochrane and reference lists were searched for the years 2000-2014 and the terms 'TDN', 'dry needling NOT trigger point', 'functional dry needling' and 'intramuscular manual therapy'.
Inclusion criteria: RCTs with PEDro scores 6-10 investigating TDN.
Exclusion criteria: duplicates, non-human participants, non-English language, exclusive focus on acupuncture or medicinal injections. Three investigators searched databases, applied criteria, read and assigned PEDro scores to every RCT. Nineteen studies met the criteria. As compared to either baseline or control groups, significant differences were found for pain (14 studies), range of motion (ROM) (five studies) and at least one item on function and quality of life measures (six studies).
Limitations: This review was limited by inclusion criteria, timeframe, language and databases searched.
Conclusion: The majority of high-quality studies included in this review show measured benefit from TDN for MTrPs in multiple body areas, suggesting broad applicability of TDN treatment for multiple muscle groups. Further high-quality research is warranted to standardise TDN methods to determine clinical applicability.
Keywords: Myofascial pain syndrome; Systematic review; Trigger point dry needling.