Dry Needling for Subacromial Pain Syndrome: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis

Pain Med. 2023 Mar 1;24(3):285-299. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnac131.


Objective: The authors of this systematic review with meta-analysis evaluated the evidence for the effectiveness of various applications of dry needling (DN) combined with other conservative treatments for subacromial pain syndrome (SAPS).

Methods: Six databases (PubMED, CINAHL, Biosis, Web of Science, SPORTDiscus, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials) were searched after the study had been registered in PROSPERO. The authors included randomized clinical trials investigating the clinical effects of DN in combination with other conservative interventions for SAPS. Outcomes included pain and disability.

Results: Eight studies were selected. All eight studies involving 10 comparisons were included in the analyses (N = 538). A random-effects model was used to analyze between-group effects. Dry needling performed in combination with other conservative interventions produced favorable outcomes at all time points for pain and disability. Standard mean differences ranged from -0.57 (moderate) to -1.29 (large) for pain and -0.69 (moderate) to -1.07 (large) for disability, favoring groups receiving DN in addition to conservative treatment. Four of the eight studies were rated as having unclear or high risk of bias.

Conclusion: The meta-analysis suggests that various applications of DN performed with other conservative interventions are more effective than conservative treatment alone for reducing pain and disability in patients with SAPS. Direct-comparison studies are needed to determine whether one application of DN is superior to another.

Keywords: Dry Needling; Shoulder Impingement; Subacromial Pain Syndrome.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Disabled Persons*
  • Dry Needling*
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Shoulder Pain / therapy