Background: Several new rehabilitation modalities have been proposed after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. Among these, trigger point dry needling (TrP-DN) might be useful in the treatment of myofascial pain syndrome associated with ACL reconstruction to reduce pain intensity, increase knee flexion range and modify the mechanical properties of the quadriceps muscle during late-stage rehabilitation. To date, this is the first randomized clinical trial to support the use of TrP-DN in the early rehabilitation process after ACL reconstruction. The aim of this study was to determine the pain intensity, range of motion (ROM), stability, and functionality improvements by adding quadriceps vastus medialis TrP-DN to the rehabilitation protocol (Rh) provided to subacute ACL reconstructed patients.
Methods: This randomized, single-blinded, clinical trial (NCT02699411) included 44 subacute patients with surgical reconstruction of complete ACL rupture. The patients were randomized into 2 intervention groups: Rh (n = 22) or Rh + TrP-DN (n = 22). Pain intensity, ROM, stability, and functionality were measured at baseline (A0) and immediately (A1), 24 hours (A2), 1 week (A3), and 5 weeks (A4) after the first treatment.
Results: Comparing statistically significant differences (P ≤ .001; Eta = 0.198-0.360) between both groups, pain intensity (at A1), ROM (at A1, A2, and A3), and functionality (at A2, A3, and A4) were increased. Nevertheless, the rest of measurements did not show significant differences (P > .05).
Conclusion: Quadriceps vastus medialis TrP-DN in conjunction with a rehabilitation protocol in subacute patients with surgical reconstruction of complete ACL rupture increases ROM (short-term) and functionality (short- to mid-term). Although there was an increase in pain intensity with the addition of TrP-DN, this was not detected beyond immediately after the first treatment. Furthermore, stability does not seem to be modified after TrP-DN.