Electromyographic Activity Evolution of Local Twitch Responses During Dry Needling of Latent Trigger Points in the Gastrocnemius Muscle: A Cross-Sectional Study

Pain Med. 2020 Jun 1;21(6):1224-1229. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnz182.


Objective: Trigger points (TrPs) are hypersensitive spots within taut bands of skeletal muscles that elicit referred pain and motor changes. Among the variety of techniques used for treating TrPs, dry needling is one of the most commonly applied interventions. The question of eliciting local twitch responses (LTRs) during TrP dry needling is unclear. Our main aim was to investigate the evolution of the electromyographic (EMG) peak activity of each LTR elicited during dry needling into latent TrPs of the gastrocnemius medialis muscle.

Methods: Twenty asymptomatic subjects with latent TrPs in the gastrocnemius medialis muscle participated in this cross-sectional study. Changes in EMG signal amplitude (root mean square [RMS]) with superficial EMG were assessed five minutes before, during, and five minutes after dry needling. The peak RMS score of each LTR was calculated (every 0.5 sec).

Results: Analysis of variance revealed a significant effect (F = 29.069, P <0.001) showing a significant decrease of RMS peak amplitude after each subsequent LTR. Differences were significant (P <0.001) during the first three LTRs, and stable until the end of the procedure. No changes (P =0.958) were found for mean RMS data at rest before (mean = 65.2 mv, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 47.3-83.1) and after (61.0 mv, 95% CI = 42.3-79.7) dry needling.

Conclusions: We found that, in a series of LTRs elicited during the application of dry needling over latent TrPs in the medial gastrocnemius muscle, the RMS peak amplitude of each subsequent LTR decreased as compared with the initial RMS peak amplitude of previous LTRs. No changes in superficial EMG activity at rest were observed after dry needling of latent TrPs of the gastrocnemius medialis muscle.

Keywords: Dry Needling; Electromyography; Local Twitch Response; Trigger Point.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dry Needling*
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes*
  • Trigger Points