Changes in Muscle Tone, Function, and Pain in the Chronic Hemiparetic Shoulder after Dry Needling Within or Outside Trigger Points in Stroke Patients: A Crossover Randomized Clinical Trial

Pain Med. 2020 Nov 1;21(11):2939-2947. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnaa132.


Objectives: To investigate the effects of applying dry needling into a trigger point (TrP) or non-TrP area in people who have suffered a stroke and to investigate if the effects of dry needling are maintained at six-week follow-up.

Methods: A controlled, repeated-measures, crossover, double-blinded randomized trial was conducted. Nineteen patients with hemiparetic shoulder pain after a stroke event were randomly assigned to receive a single multimodal treatment session combined with TrP dry needling or non-TrP dry needling. The neuro-rehabilitation session included modulatory interventions targeting the central nervous system. Spasticity (Modified Ashworth Scale), shoulder pain intensity (numerical pain rate scale, 0-10), and upper extremity function (Motor Evaluation Scale for Upper Extremity in Stroke [MESUPES], Reaching Performance Scale [RPS]) were assessed before (baseline) and one, two, three, four, five, and six weeks after the treatment session by a blinded assessor. All participants received both sessions in a randomized order where they were followed up for six weeks before receiving the opposite treatment and then followed up for another six weeks.

Results: Changes in muscle tone (all P > 0.266) and upper extremity function (MESUPES: F = 0.544, P = 0.465; RPS close task: F = 0.820, P = 0.371; RPS far task: 0.830, P = 0.368) were similar after both interventions at all follow-up periods. The decrease in shoulder pain was higher within the TrP dry needling group as compared with the non-TrP dry needling group, particularly at two and four weeks (P = 0.01).

Conclusions: The effect of dry needling on muscle tone (spasticity) and upper extremity function is not related to its application in or outside of a TrP area. The effect of dry needling on shoulder pain was slightly superior when applied over a TrP in poststroke people. These effects were maintained six weeks after treatment.

Trial registration: NCT03906305.

Keywords: Dry Needling; Function; Spasticity; Stroke; Trigger Point.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Dry Needling*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Tonus
  • Shoulder
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology
  • Shoulder Pain / therapy
  • Stroke* / complications
  • Trigger Points

Associated data