Comparing Like With Like In The Clinical Trials - What’s The Point?

A specific type of needle has been developed by Nobuari Takakura and Hiroyoshi Yajima which allows for the blinding of both the Acupuncturist and the patient (double blinding) in Acupuncture based clinical trials.

The so called ‘active’ version of the needle is 0.16mm in diameter and only penetrates to 5mm in depth. The ‘sham’ version does not penetrate the skin at all - it penetrates some stuffing in the bottom of the guide tube and just touches the skin, enough to give some sensation or the impression of needle penetration.

This needle has been validated such that when subjects were told they would receive either ‘real’ needling or ‘placebo’ needling, they could not tell the difference between the two types of needle and were unable to determine which was which.

So when this needle is put to the test in a clinical trialcomparing ‘active’ and ‘sham’ needling do you think there is likely to be a significant difference in pain outcome measures?

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Lateral Epicondylalgia - Medical Acupuncture Based Treatment Approach

A Case Study


Lateral epicondylalgia (LE), otherwise known as tennis elbow, is a common condition causing pain at the lateral elbow and forearm, as well as a lack of strength and function of the elbow and wrist.1 From a clinical point of view, many patients presenting with this condition are sports people. However others have developed the condition either by working in very manually orientated jobs, or in more sedentary jobs with repetitive use of computers for example. I used to approach the condition with some trepidation, as from experience LE had always been a very difficult condition to treat. However since using a primarily Medical Acupuncture (MA) based approach, my results have been more positive as the following case illustrates.

Presenting complaint

Mr. D complained of severe local tenderness at and just below the lateral epicondyle of the right elbow, associated with radiating pain through the dorsal forearm as far as the wrist. On the day of assessment his pain level was 6 on the VAS. He found certain activities involving the wrist and hand painful and ‘weak’ e.g. lifting boxes, carrying objects as well as playing golf. Mr. D mentioned that his forearm muscles felt very tight and that his wife had found very sore points when trying to assist with local massage. There was no altered sensation or paraesthesia to report and he had no neck pain or stiffness.

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Could Physios Be Needling With Better Technique?

So you’ve been on a Dry Needling course and have started treating patients using the technique. This may not hold true for all of you, but I was somewhat nervous when first starting to use needles clinically. I quickly realised the apprehension could be perceived by my patient but once I became more confident in my handling and needle insertion I perceived my patients to find the technique more comfortable and better clinical results followed.

Good assessment is key

I have found the key to effective treatment in a MSK setting is a good assessment. This means getting your hands on the patient and performing a careful and deliberate palpation assessment as well as looking at other relevant objective findings. However preceding this, a good subjective should give you a very good indication of a patient's ‘sensitivity’ and will help guide your objective assessment and subsequent treatment.

Getting dosage right

The concept of ‘dose’ is becoming recognised as crucial to good clinical outcomes. Dose may be defined as the level of sensory input provided to the CNS during the process of needling. Too much in a sensitive patient may brings about an adverse reaction which may mean an exacerbation of symptoms. Too little and there may be no therapeutic effect. The aim is to get the dose right for the patient and this is the tricky part.

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1 Day Acupuncture Course - Treatment of the Shoulder Girdle - 26th April 2014

I am very pleased to announce the first in a series of Masterclasses I will be running over the course of the year. First up is Integrating Advanced Medical Acupuncture & Dry Needling techniques in Treatment of the Shoulder Girdle.

  • Date: Saturday 26 April 2014
  • Location: Mount Merrion Chartered Physiotherapists, 105 Trees Road, Mount Merrion, Co Dublin
  • Duration: 8.45 am - 17.15pm (7 hours CPD)
  • Cost: 140 euro early bird until March 20th, 160 thereafter. Places limited to 12.
  • Tutors: Simon Coghlan MSc, BSc Physio, Dip Med Ac & Lorraine Carroll MPhty (Manips), BPhysio, Cert Med Ac

Course Synopsis:

This one day course is for clinicians with foundation level training in Medical Acupuncture or Dry Needling who wish to enhance their skills in the assessment and treatment of the shoulder girdle. TCM trained practitioners who would like to develop their understanding of Acupuncture used in a western medical context are also welcome to attend.

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Dry Needling For Myofascial Pain Syndrome – An Evidence Review

In this weeks post I have given a quick rundown of the evidence relating to the use of Dry Needling as a technique falling under the ‘umbrella’ of Medical Acupuncture in the treatment of trigger points related myofascial pain.

I have not provided links to each study, however a quick Google scholar search of the author, year and subject should locate the full article’s if required.

The effectiveness and efficacy of Dry Needling

Kietrys DM (2013) in a meta analysis found that dry needling can be effective in providing pain relief. These studies noted that a “twitch” often occurs when a needle is inserted into the trigger point, and this “twitch” may be a sign that the treatment will be helpful. Effects of dry needling varied across studies and that more research needs to be done to determine whether dry needling is better for this condition than other treatment options.

Tough et al (2007) highlights problems with problem with diagnosis – most studies consider secondary myofascial pain i.e. in association with some other problem e.g. underlying OA which may negatively affect outcomes to dry needling. Studies need to be based on careful diagnosis i.e. treatment of primary myofascial pain to reveal true effectiveness of dry needling.

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