Tinnitus is defined as conscious perception of sound in the absence of a corresponding external stimulus. A condition that affects 10 - 15% of the adult population, tinnitus may be caused by an interaction between the somatosensory and auditory system, more formally known as somatosensory tinnitus. Cervicogenic somatosensory tinnitus is a subgroup of somatosensory tinnitus involving anatomical structures and physiological mechanisms associated with the cervical spine. A limited number of studies have reported inconsistent outcomes for treating cervicogenic somatosensory tinnitus with conservative treatment strategies such as manual therapy and exercise. However, dry needling is a skilled, manual therapy intervention that has recently gained popularity among the physical therapy profession that may be useful for both evaluating and treating the condition. The following case report describes the use of dry needling to evaluate and treat a patient with cervical somatosensory tinnitus and concurrent cervicogenic headaches. Physical therapy that targeted the muscles of the upper cervical spine with dry needling resulted in a meaningful reduction in cervicogenic somatosensory tinnitus, and the improvements persisted at 1-year follow-up. Further research, including randomized control trials, is warranted to fully determine the potential of dry needling to treat cervicogenic somatosensory tinnitus.
Keywords: Cervicogenic tinnitus; cervicogenic headache; dry needling; somatosensory tinnitus.