Audette JF, Wang F, Smith H: Bilateral activation of motor unit potentialswith unilateral needle stimulation of active myofascial trigger points. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2004;83:368–374.
The objective of this study was to determine if there are electromyographic differences between active and latent myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) during trigger point needling.
A total of 21 subjects were recruited prospectively. The experimental group consisted of 13 subjects who had active myofascial pain in the neck for >6 mos. The age-matched, control group consisted of eight subjects without neck pain but with taut bands in the cervical musculature. The active MTrPs (or latent MTrPs in the control group) were identified in the trapezius or levator scapulae muscles, then needle electrodes were inserted ipsilaterally into the muscle with the MTrPs and into the same muscle on the contralateral side. Electromyographic activity was recorded bilaterally with a dual-channel electromyographic machine, and local twitch responses were obtainedusinganacupuncturedryneedlingtechniqueonlyonthesideoftheactiveMTrPs.
We demonstrated that in subjects with active MTrPs, bilateral motor unit activation could be obtained with unilateral needle stimulation of the trigger point. In contrast, in all the subjects with latent MTrPs, only unilateral motor unit activation could be obtained in the muscle on the same side of the needle stimulation. The motor unit potentials seen on the electromyograph were similar in morphology to a fasciculation potential but more complex.
We demonstrated bilateral or mirror-image electromyographic activity associated with unilateral needle stimulation of active MTrPs. We have found no previous mention of this phenomenon in the literature. Our study supports the concept that the perpetuation of pain and muscle dysfunction in active MTrPs may be related to abnormal central nervous system processing of sensory input at the level of the spinal cord.