A Systematic Appraisal of Conflicts of Interest and Researcher Allegiance in Clinical Studies of Dry Needling for Musculoskeletal Pain Disorders

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Physical therapy








Conflict of Interest; Dry Needling; Researcher Allegiance; Systematic Appraisal


OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine the frequency and methods of conflicts of interest (COI) reporting in published dry needling (DN) studies and to determine the frequency of researcher allegiance (RA). METHODS: A pragmatic systematic search was undertaken to identify DN studies that were included in systematic reviews. Information regarding COI and RA were extracted from the full text of the published DN reports, and study authors were sent a survey inquiring about the presence of RA. A secondary analysis also was undertaken based on study quality/risk of bias scores that were extracted from the corresponding systematic reviews and study funding extracted from each DN study. RESULTS: Sixteen systematic reviews were identified, containing 60 studies of DN for musculoskeletal pain disorders, 58 of which were randomized controlled trials. Of the DN studies, 53% had a COI statement. None of these studies disclosed a COI. Nineteen (32%) authors of DN studies responded to the survey. According to the RA survey, 100% of DN studies included at least 1 RA criterion. According to the data extraction, 1 RA criterion was met in 45% of the DN studies. The magnitude of RA per study was 7 times higher according to the surveys than in the published reports. CONCLUSION: These results suggest that COI and RA might be underreported in studies of DN. In addition, authors of DN studies might be unaware of the potential influence of RA on study results and conclusions. IMPACT: Improved reporting of COI/RA might improve credibility of results and help identify the various factors involved in complex interventions provided by physical therapists. Doing so could help optimize treatments for musculoskeletal pain disorders provided by physical therapists.


Health, Human Function, and Rehabilitation Sciences