Effectiveness of trigger point dry needling for plantar heel pain: a meta-analysis of seven randomized controlled trials

J Pain Res. 2017 Aug 18:10:1933-1942. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S141607. eCollection 2017.


Background: Plantar heel pain can be managed with dry needling of myofascial trigger points (MTrPs); however, whether MTrP needling is effective remains controversial. Thus, we conducted this meta-analysis to evaluate the effect of MTrP needling in patients with plantar heel pain.

Materials and methods: PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, SinoMed (Chinese BioMedical Literature Service System, People's Republic of China), and CNKI (National Knowledge Infrastructure, People's Republic of China) databases were systematically reviewed for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that assessed the effects of MTrP needling. Pooled weighted mean difference (WMD) with 95% CIs were calculated for change in visual analog scale (VAS) score, and pooled risk ratio (RR) with 95% CIs were calculated for success rate for pain and incidence of adverse events. A fixed-effects model or random-effects model was used to pool the estimates, depending on the heterogeneity among the included studies.

Results: Extensive literature search yielded 1,941 articles, of which only seven RCTs met the inclusion criteria and were included in this meta-analysis. The pooled results showed that MTrP needling significantly reduced the VAS score (WMD =-15.50, 95% CI: -19.48, -11.53; P<0.001) compared with control, but it had a similar success rate for pain with control (risk ratio [RR] =1.15, 95% CI: 0.87, 1.51; P=0.320). Moreover, MTrP needling was associated with a similar incidence of adverse events with control (RR =1.89, 95% CI: 0.38, 9.39; P=0.438).

Conclusion: MTrP needling effectively reduced the heel pain due to plantar fasciitis. However, considering the potential limitations in this study, more large-scale, adequately powered, good-quality placebo-controlled trials are needed to provide more trustworthy evidence in this area.

Keywords: dry needling; myofascial trigger points; plantar heel pain.