Introduction to Dry Needling and Low Back Pain

Non-specific low back pain (NS-LBP) represents a prevalent and complex challenge in clinical settings, often not attributed to any specific disease or structural deformity. This condition leads to significant disability and discomfort, affecting daily activities and quality of life. Recently, dry needling has gained attention as a potentially effective treatment for alleviating the symptoms of NS-LBP, specifically focusing on improving trunk kinematics and balance. This treatment, involving the insertion of needles at myofascial trigger points, is hypothesized to relieve pain and enhance functional movements.

Study Overview

A detailed study aimed to explore the acute effects of dry needling on the trunk’s movement dynamics and overall balance in patients with NS-LBP. This research sheds light on whether such an intervention can substantially alter functional outcomes and provide a viable clinical tool for physical therapists.

Methodological Approach

The study recruited patients diagnosed with NS-LBP and implemented a single session of dry needling focusing on the lumbar region. Comprehensive pre- and post-treatment assessments were conducted to capture changes in trunk kinematics during various movements, such as flexion-extension and lateral bending. Measurements focused on the Center of Pressure (CoP), range of motion, and pain thresholds, using algometry.


Figure 1. Pressure pain threshold assessment


Key Findings

1. Improved Motion Quality: Post-treatment results indicated a notable improvement in the smoothness and control of trunk motion, with increased angular velocity in frontal plane movements and reduced jerk in sagittal motions. This suggests a more controlled and less jerky movement, which is crucial for patients with NS-LBP.


Figure 2. Results of the jerk measurements: (a) jerk in the flexion – extension of the pelvis; (b) jerk in the lateral bending of the pelvis; *: significant difference (p < .05) between groups; **: significant difference (p < .05) within groups, ^: marginal difference.

2. Pain Relief: Significant increases in pain tolerance were observed at the L5 level immediately after the intervention, confirming dry needling’s effectiveness in reducing local discomfort.

3. No Change in Range of Motion: Interestingly, while motion quality improved, the total range of motion (ROM) did not show significant changes post-treatment. This indicates that while dry needling can enhance the quality of movements, extensive rehabilitation might be necessary to improve ROM.

Figure 4. Results of the Range of Motion (ROM) measurements: (a) ROM in the flexion – extension of the pelvis; (b) ROM in the flexion – extension of C7; *: significant difference (p < .05) between groups.

Clinical Implications

The findings from this study provide compelling evidence supporting dry needling’s role in enhancing motion quality and alleviating pain in patients with NS-LBP. Physical therapists can integrate dry needling into rehabilitation programs to achieve quicker symptomatic relief and restore functional movements efficiently.


Practical Applications in Physical Therapy

For physical therapists, these insights offer a deeper understanding of how dry needling can be used effectively within treatment protocols for NS-LBP:

  • Integrating Techniques: Combining dry needling with other therapeutic exercises could potentially enhance outcomes, given that dry needling alone does not affect ROM significantly.
  • Tailored Patient Care: Understanding individual patient responses to dry needling can help therapists tailor interventions more precisely, potentially improving rehabilitation outcomes.
  • Monitoring and Adjustment: Therapists can use the insights from kinetic and kinematic changes post-dry needling to monitor progress and adjust treatments dynamically.

[Discover the full study from The Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies]


Dry needling presents a promising intervention for NS-LBP by primarily improving the quality of motion and reducing pain, although it does not increase ROM. The integration of dry needling into comprehensive rehabilitation programs could potentially elevate patient outcomes, making it a valuable tool in the arsenal against low back pain. As research continues to evolve, the role of dry needling in physical therapy settings becomes increasingly vital, underpinning its efficacy and utility in managing complex pain syndromes like NS-LBP. Physical therapists should consider these findings to optimize treatment strategies and enhance patient care efficacy in clinical practices.