Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Is Dry Needling or Manual Therapy More Effective For Patients With Neck Pain?

February 5, 2024

Neck pain is one of the most common reasons patients seek care from their primary care physician or Physical Therapist.  In our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinics we have found the most effective and efficient treatments for neck pain include manual therapy, high level exercise, and education.  It is important for every patient to understand why the neck pain started and most importantly what they can do to prevent the pain from recurring in the future.

In a majority of cases of neck pain a significant percentage of the symptoms are driven from muscles of the neck.  Myofascial pain is effectively treated with dry needling by Physical Therapists and most often combined with other proven interventions such as spinal manipulation and exercise.  A recent study examined the differences between manual therapy or dry needling, when combined with exercise, for patients with neck pain.

Pandya and colleagues published their findings on the effectiveness of these two interventions for patients with neck pain in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy (2024).  A single Physical Therapist randomized 78 patients (average age 51 years) with neck pain to either dry needling and exercise or manual therapy and exercise.  Participants received spinal manipulation to the mid back and spinal mobilizations to the neck.  Participants who were randomized to the dry needling group received dry needling to the posterior muscles of the neck and mid back.  All participants then received strengthening exercises for the neck and shoulder blades as well as mobility exercises for the neck.  Each individual in the study received 7 treatment sessions over a 6 week period.  Authors reported improvements in both groups, but manual therapy and exercise was more effective at the end of the 6 weeks and at 3 month follow up.

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