Needle stimulation (acupuncture) has recently been shown to increase blood flow in the tibialis anterior muscle and overlying skin in healthy subjects (HS) and patients with fibromyalgia (FM). The aim of the present study was to examine the effect of needle stimulation on local blood flow in the trapezius muscle and overlying skin in HS and two groups of patients suffering from chronic pain in the trapezius muscle, i.e., FM and work-related trapezius myalgia (TM) patients. Two modes of needling, deep muscle stimulation (Deep) and subcutaneous needle insertion (SC), were performed at the upper part of the shoulder and blood flow was monitored for 60 min post-stimulation. Blood flow changes were measured non-invasively by using a new application of photoplethysmography. Increased blood flow in the trapezius muscle and overlying skin was found in all three groups following both Deep and SC. In HS, Deep was superior to SC in increasing skin and muscle blood flow, whereas in FM, SC was as effective as, or even more effective, than Deep. In the severely affected TM patients, no differences were found between the stimuli, and generally, a lesser blood flow response to the stimuli was found. At Deep, the muscle blood flow increase was significantly larger in HS, compared to the two patient groups. Positive correlations were found between muscle blood flow at Deep and pressure pain threshold in the trapezius muscle, neck movement and pain experienced at the stimulation, and negative correlations were found with spontaneous pain-related variables, symptom duration and age, pointing to less favorable results with worsening of symptoms, and to the importance of nociceptor activation in blood flow increase. It was hypothesized that the different patterns of muscle blood flow response to the needling may mirror a state of increased sympathetic activity and a generalized hypersensitivity in the patients. The intensity of stimulation should be taken into consideration when applying local needle stimulation (acupuncture) in order to increase the trapezius muscle blood flow in chronic pain conditions. (c) 2004 European Federation of Chapters of the International Association for the Study of Pain.
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Environmental Health and Occupational Health
- muscle blood flow
- trapezius muscle