Background: Biomechanical muscle stiffness has been linked to musculoskeletal disorders. Assessing changes in muscle stiffness following DN may help elucidate a physiologic mechanism of DN. This study characterizes the effects of dry needling (DN) to the infraspinatus, erector spinae, and gastrocnemius muscles on biomechanical muscle stiffness.
Method: 60 healthy participants were randomized into infraspinatus, erector spinae, or gastrocnemius groups. One session of DN was applied to the muscle in standardized location. Stiffness was assessed using a MyotonPRO at baseline, immediately post DN, and 24 h later. The presence of a localized twitch response (LTR) during DN was used to subgroup participants.
Results: A statistically significant decrease in stiffness was observed in the gastrocnemius, the LTR gastrocnemius, and the LTR erector spinae group immediately following DN treatment. However, stiffness increased after 24 h. No significant change was found in the infraspinatus group.
Conclusions: DN may cause an immediate, yet transitory change in local muscle stiffness. It is unknown whether these effects are present in a symptomatic population or related to improvements in clinical outcomes. Future studies are necessary to determine if a decrease in biomechanical stiffness is related to improvement in symptomatic individuals.
Keywords: Dry needling; Muscle stiffness; Myofascial trigger point.
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