Effectiveness of dry needling for upper extremity spasticity, quality of life and function in subacute phase stroke patients

Acupunct Med. 2021 Aug;39(4):299-308. doi: 10.1177/0964528420947426. Epub 2020 Aug 20.


Background: Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in Europe, represents one of the most common causes of disability in adult patients, and involves considerable short- and long-term social and healthcare costs. The effectiveness of deep dry needling (DDN) on affected arm functionality was assessed throughout 8 weeks of treatment in patients with stroke in the subacute phase.

Methods: Eighty patients were included in this two-group non-randomised study after a propensity score analysis was carried out. Both groups received standard physiotherapy treatment on the affected arm. The needling group also received six sessions of DDN during the 8-week period. Patients were evaluated before and after each session using the Fugl-Meyer upper extremity (FM UE) scale, the modified modified Ashworth scale (MMAS), the resistance to passive movement scale (REPAS) and a 10-point numeric pain rating scale (NPRS 10). The Brunnstrom recovery stage was recorded at the beginning and at the end of the study, and the EuroQoL quality of life survey was completed at the beginning of the study, after the first month of treatment and at the end of the study.

Results: Patients treated with DDN showed a reduction in spasticity measured using the REPAS (p < 0.001) and the MMAS (p < 0.05). There was also an improvement in the Brunnstrom recovery stages (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: The addition of a specific DDN treatment to a standard physiotherapy treatment appeared to lead to a higher reduction in spasticity in the affected arm; however, it did not provide additional changes in functionality, pain and quality of life. Further studies with a randomised controlled trial design are required to confirm our findings.

Keywords: dry needling; functionality; muscle spasticity; stroke; upper extremity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arm / physiopathology*
  • Dry Needling*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Spasticity*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Quality of Life
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Stroke / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome