Objective: To identify whether a single session of postrace dry needling can decrease postrace soreness and quantity of postrace leg cramps in half-marathon and full-marathon runners.
Design: Single-blind, prospective, randomized, controlled trial.
Setting: Finish line of 2018 Salt Lake City Marathon & Half-Marathon.
Participants: Runners aged 18 years or older who completed a marathon or half-marathon.
Interventions: True or sham dry needling of the bilateral vastus medialis and soleus muscles within 1 hour of race completion by 2 experienced practitioners.
Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was numeric pain rating improvements for soreness on days 1, 2, 3, and 7 compared to immediately postrace. Secondary outcome measures included number of postrace cramps and subjective improvement of soreness.
Results: Sixty-two runners were included with 28 receiving true and 34 receiving sham dry needling. Objective pain scores showed an increase in pain of the soleus muscles at days 1 and 2 (P ≤ 0.003 and P ≤ 0.041, respectively) in the dry needling group. No differences were seen in postrace pain in the vastus medialis muscles (P > 0.05). No association was seen between treatment group and presence of postrace cramping at any time point (P > 0.05). Subjectively, there was a nonsignificant trend for those receiving dry needling to feel better than expected over time (P = 0.089), but no difference with cramping (P = 0.396).
Conclusions: A single postrace dry needling session does not objectively improve pain scores or cramping compared to sham therapy.
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