Dry needling in a manual physiotherapy and therapeutic exercise protocol for patients with chronic mechanical shoulder pain of unspecific origin: a protocol for a randomized control trial

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2017 Sep 18;18(1):400. doi: 10.1186/s12891-017-1746-3.


Background: Shoulder pain of musculoskeletal origin is the main cause of upper limb pain of non-traumatic origin. Despite being one of the most common reasons for consultation, there is no established protocol for treatment due to the complexity of its etiology. However, it has been shown that the presence of myofascial trigger points on the shoulder muscles is a common condition associated with patients suffering from shoulder pain. This protocol has been created which describes the design of a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the inclusion of dry needling (DN) within a protocol of manual physiotherapy and therapeutic exercise in the treatment of chronic shoulder pain of unspecific origin.

Methods: Thirty-six participants aged 18-65 years will be recruited having mechanical chronic shoulder pain on unspecific origin and meeting the inclusion criteria. These will be randomized to one of two interventions, (i) DN, manual physiotherapy and therapeutic exercise or (ii) sham DN, manual physiotherapy and therapeutic exercise. The protocol will cover 6 weeks of treatment, with a 6-month follow-up. Our main outcome measure will be the Visual Analogue Scale for pain.

Discussion: This is the first study to combine the use of DN, manual physiotherapy and an exercise program with a 6-month follow-up, thus becoming a new contribution to the treatment of chronic shoulder pain, while new lines of research may be established to help determine the effects of DN on chronic shoulder pain and the frequency and proper dosage.

Trial registrations: International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number Register: ISRCTN30604244 ( http://www.controlled-trials.com ) 29 June 2016.

Keywords: Dry needling; Myofascial trigger point; Physical therapy; Shoulder pain; Therapeutic exercise.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Pain / diagnosis
  • Chronic Pain / epidemiology
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Shoulder Pain / diagnosis
  • Shoulder Pain / epidemiology
  • Shoulder Pain / therapy*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Young Adult