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Dry Needling and Injection for Musculoskeletal and Joint Disorders: A Review of the Clinical Effectiveness, Cost-Effectiveness, and Guidelines

Last updated: August 22, 2016
Project Number: RC0803-000
Product Line: Rapid Response
Research Type: Devices and Systems
Report Type: Summary with Critical Appraisal
Result type: Report

Question

  1. What is the clinical effectiveness of dry needling for patients with musculoskeletal and joint disorders?
  2. What is the clinical effectiveness of dry needling plus injection vs. injection alone for patients with musculoskeletal and joint disorders?
  3. What is the cost-effectiveness of dry needling for patients with musculoskeletal and joint disorders?
  4. What is the cost-effectiveness of dry needling plus injection vs. injection alone for patients with musculoskeletal and joint disorders?
  5. What are the evidence-based guidelines on the use of dry needling and injection to treat patients with musculoskeletal and joint disorders?

Key Message

Evidence on the effectiveness of dry needling is mixed. Limited evidence suggests that wet needling (injection) is more effective than dry needling in the treatment of musculoskeletal or joint pain. Our literature search found no information on the cost-effectiveness of dry needling for patients with musculoskeletal or joint disorders, or on the cost-effectiveness of dry needling plus injection vs. injection alone for patients with these conditions. No evidence-based guidelines were identified on the use dry needling in the treatment of musculoskeletal or joint disorders. While there are some statements on this treatment issued by physiotherapy and other healthcare professional associations, these are practitioner guides outlining competencies and safe practices for providing this procedure.