Impact of physical therapists' instructions on function and the perception of post-dry needling soreness in mechanical cervical pain; a randomized clinical trial

J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2020 Oct;24(4):118-123. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2020.06.023. Epub 2020 Jul 13.


Background: To investigate the impact of physical therapists' instructions on the perception of post dry needling (DN) soreness and function in patients with mechanical neck pain.

Methods: Seventy-five patients with neck pain were randomly assigned to three groups: "positive" group (n = 25) received positive verbal input; "negative" group (n = 25) received negative verbal input, and control group (n = 25) did not receive any input about post-needling soreness. All three groups received DN of a trigger point in the upper trapezius muscle. The subjective pain experience, pressure pain threshold (PPT), and neck disability Index (NDI) were assessed before and after DN.

Results: Patients in all groups showed improvement in pain, PPT and NDI. There were no significant differences in pain (P = 0.41) and PPT (P = 0.68) in the positive and negative groups compared with the control group. Significant difference in function was seen with the NDI after DN of patients in the positive and negative groups compared with the control group (P = 0.011, standard error: 1.08-1.5).

Conclusion: Considering that the power of our study may be too low to draw more definitive conclusions, DN appears to be an effective technique to improve pain and mechanical hyperalgesia. The experience of post-needling soreness does not appear to influence the outcome of DN on pain, PPT, and NDI. Post-needling soreness does not seem to be a limiting factor in achieving acceptable outcomes, especially when clinicians offer DN within a therapeutic emphasizing a positive patient response. This study questions whether any treatments need to be offered to patients receiving DN.

Keywords: Active trigger point; Dry needling; Mechanical neck pain; Post-needling soreness; Upper trapezius.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Dry Needling*
  • Humans
  • Neck Pain / therapy
  • Pain Threshold
  • Physical Therapists*
  • Trigger Points