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Trigger point dry needling for the treatment of myofascial pain syndrome: current perspectives within a pain neuroscience paradigm

Authors Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C, Nijs J

Received 15 January 2019

Accepted for publication 24 April 2019

Published 18 June 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 1899—1911

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S154728

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 5

Editor who approved publication: Dr E Alfonso Romero-Sandoval


César Fernández-de-Las-Peñas,1,2 Jo Nijs3,4

1Department of Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Alcorcón, Madrid, Spain; 2Cátedra de Investigación y Docencia en Fisioterapia: Terapia Manual y Punción Seca, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Alcorcón, Madrid, Spain; 3Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy, Department of Physiotherapy, Human Physiology and Anatomy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium; 4Pain in Motion International Research Group, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium

Abstract: Myofascial pain syndrome is a pain condition characterized by the presence of trigger points. Current evidence, mostly experimental studies, clearly supports a role of trigger points on peripheral and central sensitization since they are able to contribute to sensitization of peripheral nociceptors, spinal dorsal horn neurons, and the brainstem. Several interventions are proposed for treating trigger points, dry needling being one of the most commonly used by clinicians. There is no consensus on the clinical application of trigger point dry needling: some authors propose that local twitch responses should be elicited during the needling intervention to be effective, whereas others do not. The application of trigger point dry needling is able to reduce the excitability of the central nervous system by reducing peripheral nociception associated to the trigger point, by reducing dorsal horn neuron activity, and by modulating pain-related brainstem areas. However, the effects are mainly observed in the short-term, and effect sizes are moderateto small. Therefore, the current review proposes that the application of trigger point dry needling should be integrated into current pain neuroscience paradigm by combining its application with pain neuroscience education, graded exercise and manual therapy. Additionally, patient’s expectations, beliefs, previous experiences and patient–clinician interaction should be considered when integrating trigger point dry needling into a comprehensive treatment approach.

Keywords: trigger point, dry needling, sensitization, chronic pain

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