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Dry-needling and exercise for chronic whiplash-associated disorders: a randomized single-blind placebo-controlled trial

Sterling, Michelea,*; Vicenzino, Billb; Souvlis, Tinac,d; Connelly, Luke B.e,f,g,h

doi: 10.1097/01.j.pain.0000460359.40116.c1
Research Paper

This randomized controlled trial investigated the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of dry-needling and exercise compared with sham dry-needling and exercise for chronic whiplash-associated disorders (WAD). The setting was a single university centre and 4 physiotherapy practices in Queensland, Australia. Eighty patients with chronic WAD (>3 months) were enrolled between June 2009 and August 2012 with 1-year follow-up completed in August 2013. The interventions were 6 weeks of dry-needling to posterior neck muscles (n = 40) and exercise or sham dry-needling and exercise (n = 40). The primary outcomes of the Neck Disability Index (NDI) and self-rated recovery were measured at baseline, 6 and 12 weeks, 6 and 12 months by a blinded assessor. Analysis was intention to treat. An economic evaluation was planned but missing data deemed further analysis unwarranted. Seventy-nine patients (99%) were followed up at 6 weeks, 78 (98%) at 12 weeks, 74 (93%) at 6 months, and 73 (91%) at 12 months. The dry-needling and exercise intervention was more effective than sham dry-needling and exercise in reducing disability at 6 and 12 months but not at 6 and 12 weeks. The treatment effects were small and not clinically worthwhile. At 6 weeks, the treatment effect on the 0-100 NDI was −0.3 (95% confidence interval −5.4 to 4.7), 12 weeks −0.3 (−5.2 to 4.9), 6 months −4.4 (−9.6 to −0.74), and 12 months −3.8 (−9.1 to −0.5). There was no effect for self-rated recovery. In patients with chronic WAD, dry-needling and exercise has no clinically worthwhile effects over sham dry-needling and exercise.

Dry-needling and exercise has no clinically worthwhile effects over sham needling and exercise on disability in patients with chronic whiplash.

aGriffith Health Institute, Centre of National Research on Disability and Rehabilitation Medicine (CONROD) and Centre for Musculoskeletal Research and School of Allied Health, Griffith University, Parklands, Australia

bUniversity of Queensland, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in Spinal Pain, Injury and Health, Brisbane, Australia

cHealthindustry.com.au Pty Ltd, New Farm, Australia

dGriffith University, Gold Coast, Australia

eCentre of National Research on Disability and Rehabilitation Medicine (CONROD), University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

fAustralian Centre for Economic Research on Health, The University of Queensland, Edith Cavell Building, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Brisbane, Australia

gSchool of Economics, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

hUniversity of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research (UQCCR), Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Brisbane, Australia

Correspondence author. Address: Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Parklands, Gold Coast, Queensland 4222, Australia. Tel.: 61 7 55529771; fax: 61 7 33936924. E-mail address: m.sterling@griffith.edu.au (M. Sterling).

Sponsorships or competing interests that may be relevant to content are disclosed at the end of this article.

Received September 24, 2014

Received in revised form December 28, 2014

Accepted December 30, 2014

© 2015 International Association for the Study of Pain
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