Pain Med. 2022 Feb 18:pnac034. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnac034. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVE: To compare the effects of dry needling or manual pressure release on an active trigger point in the upper trapezius on cranio-cervical flexion test performance, pressure pain thresholds, and cervical range of motion in chronic neck pain.
DESIGN: A parallel randomized clinical trial.
SETTING: Physical therapy service.
SUBJECTS: Individuals with chronic neck pain.
METHODS: Subjects were randomized to receive dry needling (n = 25) or manual trigger point pressure release (n = 25) on upper trapezius active trigger points. Surface electromyography from upper trapezius, splenius capitis, sternocleidomastoid, and scalene muscles during performance of the cranio-cervical flexion test was assessed before and immediately after the intervention as primary outcome. Neck pain intensity, range of motion and pressure pain thresholds were the secondary outcomes.
RESULTS: A decrease in sternocleidomastoid activity on all stages of the cranio-cervical flexion test (time effect, p < 0.001) was found in both groups after the interventions, with no significant between-group difference. Pressure pain thresholds measured over the cervical spine and second metacarpal increased after dry needling when compared to manual trigger point pressure release (p < 0.05). Pain intensity decreased immediately after both treatments with moderate to large effect sizes, whereas cervical range of motion increased for both groups but with small effect sizes.
CONCLUSION: A single session of dry needling or manual pressure release over upper trapezius active trigger points promotes limited effects on muscle performance during the cranio-cervical flexion test, pressure pain thresholds and cervical range of motion in patients with chronic neck pain.