Dry Needling Versus Manual Therapy for Patients With Mechanical Neck Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2024 Apr;54(4):1-12. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2024.12091.


OBJECTIVE: To compare the short- and intermediate-term effects of dry needling to manual therapy on pain, disability, function, and patient-perceived improvement in patients with mechanical neck pain. DESIGN: A single (therapist) blinded randomized controlled trial. METHODS: Seventy-eight patients (mean ± SD age, 50.74 ± 13.81) were randomly assigned to one of the 2 groups: (1) dry needling and therapeutic exercises (DN + Exercises) and (2) manual therapy and therapeutic exercises (MT + Exercises). Both groups received 7 treatment sessions over a maximum of 6 weeks. Outcome measures, collected at baseline, 2 weeks, discharge (7th treatment session), and 3 months after discharge, were as follows: Neck Disability Index (NDI), numeric pain-rating scale (NPRS), Patient-Specific Functional Scale (PSFS), global rating of change (GROC), Fear-Avoidance Belief Questionnaire (FABQ), and Deep Neck Flexor Endurance Test (DNFET). Data were analyzed with mixed-model analysis of covariance (ANCOVA), using pretest scores as covariates, and a Mann-Whitney U test for GROC scores. RESULTS: The ANCOVA revealed significant group-by-time interaction for all variables. Significant between-group differences, favoring MT + Exercises, were observed at all 3 time points on the NDI (2 weeks: F1,446 = 172.68, P≤.001, [Formula: see text] = .27; discharge: F1,446 = 254.15, P≤.001, [Formula: see text] = .36; and 3 months: F1,446 = 339.40, P≤.001, [Formula: see text] = .43). Results for the MT + Exercises group exceeded recommended minimal clinically important difference for all variables, at all follow-up points. CONCLUSION: MT + Exercises was more effective, both in the short term and intermediate term, than DN + Exercises in reducing pain, disability, and improving function in patients with mechanical neck pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2024;54(4):1-12. Epub 29 January 2024. doi:10.2519/jospt.2024.12091.

Keywords: dry needling; manual therapy; neck pain; therapeutic exercises.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dry Needling*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Manipulations* / methods
  • Neck Pain / therapy
  • Percutaneous Collagen Induction