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Open Access Research

Skeletal muscle contractility, self-reported pain and tissue sensitivity in females with neck/shoulder pain and upper Trapezius myofascial trigger points– a randomized intervention study

Corrie Myburgh12*, Jan Hartvigsen12, Per Aagaard1 and Anders Holsgaard-Larsen3

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Fyn, Odense 5230, Denmark

2 Nordic Institute for Chiropractic and Clinical Biomechanics, Fyn, Odense, 5230, Denmark

3 Department of Orthopeadic Surgery Odense University Hospital, University of Southern Denmark, Fyn, Odense 5230, Denmark

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Chiropractic & Manual Therapies 2012, 20:36  doi:10.1186/2045-709X-20-36

Published: 25 November 2012

Abstract

Background

In relation to Myofascial Triggerpoints (MFTrPs) of the upper Trapezius, this study explored muscle contractility characteristics, the occurrence of post-intervention muscle soreness and the effect of dry needling on muscle contractile characteristics and clinical outcomes.

Methods

Seventy-seven female office workers (25-46yrs) with and without neck/shoulder pain were observed with respect to self-reported pain (NRS-101), pressure-pain threshold (PPT), maximum voluntary contraction (Fmax) and rate of force development (RFD) at baseline (pre-intervention), immediately post-intervention and 48 hours post-intervention. Symptomatic and asymptomatic participant groups were each randomized into two treatment sub-groups (superficial (SDN) and deep dry needling (DDN)) after baseline testing. At 48 hours post-intervention participants were asked whether delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and/or post-needling soreness had developed.

Results

Muscle contractile characteristics did not differ between groups at baseline. Forty-six individuals developed muscle soreness (39 from mechanical testing and seven from needling). No inter-group differences were observed post-intervention for Fmax or RFD for the four sub-groups. Over the observation period, symptomatic participants reported less pain from both SDN (p= 0.003) and DDN (p=0.011). However, PPT levels were reduced for all participants (p=0.029). Those reporting DOMS experienced significant decreases in PPT, irrespective of symptom state or intervention (p=0.001).

Conclusions

In selected female neck/shoulder pain sufferers, maximum voluntary contraction and rapid force generation of the upper Trapezius was not influenced by clinically relevant self-reported pain or the presence of diagnostically relevant MFTrPs. Dry needling, deep or superficial, did not affect measured functional outcomes over the 48-hour observation period. DOMS affected participants uniformly irrespective of pain, MFTrP status or intervention type and therefore is like to act as a modifier.

Trial registration

Clinical Trials.gov- NCT01710735

Significance and Innovations

The present investigation is one of the first to examine the hypothesis of gross muscle contractile inhibition due to the presence of diagnostically relevant MFTrPs.

Individuals suffering from clinically relevant levels of self-reported pain are able to tolerate maximum voluntary contraction testing, but delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a likely side-effect irrespective of symptom status. As a consequence, its confounding effect during subsequent testing must be taken into account.

Keywords:
Myofascial pain; Trigger points; Neck/shoulder pain; Mechanical outcomes