Dry needling technique decreases spasticity and improves general functioning in incomplete spinal cord injury: A case report

J Spinal Cord Med. 2020 May;43(3):414-418. doi: 10.1080/10790268.2018.1533316. Epub 2018 Oct 22.


Context: Spasticity in neurological disorders (i.e. stroke patients and cerebral palsy) is positively improved by dry needling. However, reports are scarce regarding the potential effects of dry needling in reducing spasticity and improving functionality in patients with an incomplete spinal cord injury. The aim of this case report was to study the immediate, short-term effects of dry needling treatment (10 weeks) on spasticity, dynamic stability, walking velocity, self-independence, and pain in a single patient with an incomplete spinal cord injury.Findings: The dry needling treatment resulted in immediate, short-time effects on basal spasticity in the upper (reduction from 2 to 0 point median) and lower (reduction from 2 to 0 point median) limbs, as measured by the modified Ashworth Scale. Dynamic-stability, assessed by trunk accelerometry, improved more than 50% (Root Mean Squared of acceleration, Root Mean Squared of Jerk and step variability), and gait speed improved by 24.7 s (i.e. time to walk 20 m). Self-independence and pain were respectively scored by the Spinal Cord Independence Measure (21 points improvement) and visual analog scale (4 points improvement).Conclusions: This case report demonstrates that dry needling treatment can have positive effects on spasticity, dynamic stability, walking velocity, self-independence, and pain in patients with incomplete spinal cord injury. Further research is needed in a larger patient population to deeply understand the mechanism(s) associated with the obtained results and regarding the clinical significances of dry needling treatment for incomplete spinal cord injury.

Keywords: Pain; Spasticity; Spinal cord; Trigger point.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Dry Needling*
  • Functional Status*
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / etiology
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Spasticity / etiology
  • Muscle Spasticity / rehabilitation*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation*