This study aimed to evaluate changes in neuromuscular function and pain perception in latent trigger points (TrPs) in the gastrocnemius muscle after a single session of dry needling. A randomized within-participant clinical trial was conducted. Fifty volunteers with latent TrPs in the gastrocnemius muscles were explored. Each extremity was randomly assigned to a control or experimental (dry needling) group. Viscoelastic parameters and contractile properties were analyzed by tensiomyography. Ankle dorsiflexion range of motion was assessed with the lunge test. Pressure pain thresholds (PPT) and pain perceived were also analyzed. The results observed that three viscoelastic proprieties (myotonometry) showed significant differences in favor of the experimental extremity in the lateral gastrocnemius: stiffness (p = 0.02), relaxation (p = 0.045), and creep (p = 0.03), but not in the medial gastrocnemius. No changes in tensiomyography outcomes were found. The control extremity showed a higher increase in PPTs (i.e., decrease in pressure pain sensitivity) than the experimental extremity (p = 0.03). No significant effects for range of motion or strength were observed. In general, gender did not influence the effects of dry needling over latent TrPs in the gastrocnemius muscle. In conclusion, a single session of dry needling was able to change some parameters of neuromuscular function, such as muscle tone, relaxation, pressure pain sensitivity, and creep in the lateral (but not medial) gastrocnemius but did not improve strength or range of motion.
Keywords: dry needling; gastrocnemius; myofascial pain; trigger points.