Effectiveness of dry needling of rectus abdominis trigger points for the treatment of primary dysmenorrhoea: a randomised parallel-group trial

Acupunct Med. 2018 Oct;36(5):302-310. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2017-011566. Epub 2018 May 2.


Objective: To compare the effectiveness of trigger point dry needling (TrP-DN) versus placebo needling, relative to an untreated control group, on pain and quality of life in primary dysmenorrhoea.

Methods: In this randomised, single blind, parallel-group trial, 56 females with primary dysmenorrhoea were randomly allocated to TrP-DN (n=19), placebo needling (n=18) or no treatment (n=19). Patients in both groups were asked to undertake a stretching exercise of the rectus abdominis daily. The needling group received a single session of TrP-DN to trigger points (TrPs) in the rectus abdominis, and the placebo group received placebo needling. The primary outcome was pain intensity (visual analogue scale). Secondary outcomes were quality of life, use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the number of days with pain, and self-perceived improvement, measured using a Global Rate of Change. Outcomes were assessed at baseline, and 1 and 2 months after the treatment.

Results: Females receiving TrP-DN exhibited greater decreases (P<0.001) in pain than those receiving placebo (1 month: Δ-19.8 mm, 25.9 to -13.7; 2 months: Δ-26.0 mm, -33.1 to -18.9) or assigned to the untreated control group (1 month: Δ-26.0mm, -32.5 to -19.5; 2 months: Δ-20.1 mm, -26.4 to -13.8). Females in the TrP-DN group also exhibited a greater decrease in the amount of medications (P<0.001). No differences in the number of days with pain or quality of life were found (all P>0.1).

Conclusions: This trial suggests that a single session of TrP-DN of the rectus abdominis combined with stretching was more effective than placebo needling and stretching alone at reducing pain and the amount of medication used in primary dysmenorrhoea.

Trial registration number: ACTRN12616000170426 .

Keywords: acupuncture; myofascial pain; pain management.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Points
  • Acupuncture Therapy* / instrumentation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Dysmenorrhea / drug therapy
  • Dysmenorrhea / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Trigger Points
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal