Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the within and between-group effects of segmental and distal dry needling (DN) without needle manipulation to a semi-standardized non-thrust manipulation (NTM) targeting the symptomatic spinal level for patients with non-specific low back pain (NSLBP). Methods: Sixty-five patients with NSLBP were randomized to receive either DN (n = 30) or NTM (n = 35) for six sessions over 3 weeks. Outcomes collected included the oswestry disability index (ODI), patient specific functional scale (PSFS), numeric pain rating scale (NPRS), and pain pressure thresholds (PPT). At discharge, patients perceived recovery was assessed. Results: A two-way mixed model ANOVA demonstrated that there was no group*time interaction for PSFS (p = 0.26), ODI (p = 0.57), NPRS (p = 0.69), and PPT (p = 0.51). There was significant within group effects for PSFS (3.1 [2.4, 3.8], p = 0.018), ODI (14.5% [10.0%, 19.0%], p = 0.015), NPRS (2.2 [1.5, 2.8], p = 0.009), but not for PPT (3.3 [0.5, 6.0], p = 0.20). Discussion: The between-group effects were neither clinically nor statistically significant. The within group effects were both significant and exceeded the reported minimum clinically important differences for the outcomes tools except the PPT. DN and NTM produced comparable outcomes in this sample of patients with NSLBP. Level of evidence: 1b.
Keywords: Low back pain; dry needling; manual therapy.