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Dry Needling Adds No Benefit to the Treatment of Neck Pain: A Sham-Controlled Randomized Clinical Trial With 1-Year Follow-up

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2021 Jan;51(1):37-45. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2021.9864.


OBJECTIVE: To examine the short- and long-term effectiveness of dry needling on disability, pain, and patient-perceived improvements in patients with mechanical neck pain when added to a multimodal treatment program that includes manual therapy and exercise.

DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial.

METHODS: Seventy-seven adults (mean ± SD age, 46.68 ± 14.18 years; 79% female) who were referred to physical therapy with acute, subacute, or chronic mechanical neck pain were randomly allocated to receive 7 multimodal treatment sessions over 4 weeks of (1) dry needling, manual therapy, and exercise (needling group); or (2) sham dry needling, manual therapy, and exercise (sham needling group). The primary outcome of disability (Neck Disability Index score) and secondary outcomes of pain (current and 24-hour average) and patient-perceived improvement were assessed at baseline and follow-ups of 4 weeks, 6 months, and 1 year by blinded assessors. Between-group differences were analyzed with a 2-way, repeated-measures analysis of variance. Global rating of change was analyzed with a Mann-Whitney U test.

RESULTS: There were no group-by-time interactions for disability (Neck Disability Index: F2.37,177.47 = 0.42, P = .69), current pain (visual analog scale: F2.84,213.16 = 1.04, P = .37), or average pain over 24 hours (F2.64,198.02 = 0.01, P = .10). There were no between-group differences for global rating of change at any time point (P≥.65). Both groups improved over time for all variables (Neck Disability Index: F2.37,177.47 = 124.70, P<.001; current pain: F2.84,213.16 = 64.28, P<.001; and average pain over 24 hours: F2.64,198.02 = 76.69, P<.001).

CONCLUSION: There were no differences in outcomes between trigger point dry needling and sham dry needling when added to a multimodal treatment program for neck pain. Dry needling should not be part of a first-line approach to managing neck pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2021;51(1):37-45. doi:10.2519/jospt.2021.9864.

PMID:33383999 | DOI:10.2519/jospt.2021.9864


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