Dry needling increases antioxidant activity and grip force in a rat model of muscle pain

Acupunct Med. 2022 Jun;40(3):241-248. doi: 10.1177/09645284211056941. Epub 2021 Dec 11.


Background: Muscle pain syndromes (MPS) are one of the main causes of functional, structural and metabolic problems, being associated with tissue oxidative damage. Although dry needling is widely used in the treatment of MPS, there is little scientific evidence of its efficacy and underlying mechanisms of action.

Objectives: To investigate the effects of different dry needling techniques on thermal and mechanical hyperalgesia, locomotor and functional activity, and oxidative stress markers in a rat model of muscle pain.

Methods: A total of 48 male Wistar rats underwent injection of the gastrocnemius muscle with control neutral saline (pH 7) and remained untreated (Saline group), or acidic saline (pH 4) and remained untreated (ASA group) or received pregabalin (PG group), deep needling (DN group), superficial needling (SN group) or twitch needling (TN group) with n = 8 rats per group. Mechanical (von Frey test) and thermal hyperalgesia (acetone test), muscle edema (assessed with a caliper), strength and muscle function (grip force evaluation), surface thermography and locomotor and exploratory activities (open field test) were evaluated. The animals were then euthanized, and the gastrocnemius muscle was excised for assessment of oxidative analyses of lipid peroxidation with thiobarbituric acid reactive species (TBA-RS) and total glutathione (GSH) levels.

Results: All treatments significantly improved muscle strength and function when compared to the AS group (p < 0.05). Pregabalin reduced locomotor and exploratory activities, while the TN intervention increased the antioxidant response (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Dry needling improved strength, functionality and locomotor activity in a rat model of muscle pain. Twitch needling induced an antioxidant effect.

Keywords: acidic saline; acupuncture; dry needling; musculoskeletal disorders; pain management.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants
  • Dry Needling*
  • Female
  • Hand Strength
  • Hyperalgesia / therapy
  • Male
  • Myalgia
  • Pregabalin
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Trigger Points


  • Antioxidants
  • Pregabalin