Background: Few studies have investigated the dry needling (DN) approach on knee osteoarthritis (KO) patients. The study's aim was to evaluate the short-term efficacy of adding DN to a therapeutic exercise protocol in the treatment of KO in older adults.
Methods: A double-blind, pilot clinical trial with parallel groups [NCT02698072] was carried out for 12 weeks of treatment and follow-up. Twenty patients aged 65 years and older with myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) in the muscles of the thigh were recruited from older-adult care centers and randomly assigned to a DN + Exercise group or a Sham-DN + Exercise group. The Numeric Rating Scale (NRS; primary outcome) and Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index questionnaire (WOMAC) were assessed before and after the intervention.
Results: The NRS (analysis of variance, ANOVA) showed statistically significant differences in the time factor (F = 53.038; P < .0001; ηp = 0.747). However, it did not show a significant change in the group-time interaction (F = 0.082; P = .777; ηp = 0.005). The WOMAC scores (ANOVA) showed statistically significant differences in the time factor for total score WOMAC questionnaire (F = 84.826; P < .0001; ηp = 0.825), WOMAC pain (F = 90.478; P < .0001; ηp = 0.834), WOMAC stiffness (F = 14.556; P < .001; ηp = 0.447), and WOMAC function (F = 70.872; P < .0001; ηp = 0.797). However, it did not show a statistically significant change in the group-time interaction.
Conclusion: Despite the pain intensity and disability clinically relevant improvement for both DN and Sham-DN combined with exercise, 6 sessions of DN added to a therapeutic exercise program for older adults with KO did not seem to improve pain intensity and functionality.