Manual acupuncture for myofascial pain syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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To assess the efficacy of manual acupuncture (MA) in the treatment of myofascial pain syndrome (MPS).


We searched for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing MA versus sham/placebo or no intervention in patients with MPS in the following databases from inception to January 2016: PubMed; Cochrane Library; Embase; Web of Science; and China Biology Medicine. Two reviewers independently screened the literature extracted data and assessed the quality of the included studies according to the risk of bias tool recommended by the Cochrane Handbook (V.5.1.0). Then, a meta-analysis was performed using RevMan 5.3 software.


Ten RCTs were combined in a meta-analysis of MA versus sham, which showed a favourable effect of MA on pain intensity after stimulation of myofascial trigger points (MTrPs; standardised mean difference (SMD) −0.90, 95% CI −1.48 to −0.32; p=0.002) but not traditional acupuncture points (p>0.05). Benefit was seen both after a single treatment (SMD −1.05, 95% CI −1.84 to −0.27; p=0.009) and course of eight sessions (weighted mean difference (WMD) −1.96, 95% CI −2.72 to −1.20; p<0.001). We also found a significant increase in pressure pain threshold following MA stimulation of MTrPs (WMD 1.00, 95% CI 0.32 to 1.67; p=0.004). Two of the included studies reported mild adverse events (soreness/haemorrhage) secondary to MA.


Through stimulation of MTrPs, MA might be efficacious in terms of pain relief and reduction of muscle irritability in MPS patients. Additional well-designed/reported studies are required to determine the optimal number of sessions for the treatment of MPS.

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