Focus of Report: The focus of this Health Technology Assessment is to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of dry needling (DN) compared with standard therapies to treat knee osteoarthritis (KOA) in adults.

Technology Description: DN (also called intramuscular stimulation or trigger-point [TrP] needling) involves the use of thin needles to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying tissues. Such tissue stimulation is thought to lessen pain and improve movement. Most advocates of this model believe that treatment of TrPs with DN should be part of a multimodal care plan that includes other interventions, such as stretching, joint mobilizations, neuromuscular reeducation, and strengthening.

Controversy: Professional organizations for acupuncture contend that DN is a form of acupuncture that precludes the necessary education and safety standards of the acupuncture profession. Other controversies include the safety and effectiveness of DN versus other treatments, optimal technical parameters for administration, and patient selection (i.e., which patients might benefit the most from the treatment).

Key Questions:

  • Is DN effective for reducing pain, improving function, and improving quality of life among adults with KOA?

  • How does DN compare with standard treatments for KOA?

  • Is DN in patients with KOA safe?

  • Have definitive patient selection criteria been identified for DN for adults with KOA?