Day-to-Day Changes of Auricular Point Acupressure to Manage Chronic Low Back Pain: A 29-day Randomized Controlled Study

Chao Hsing Yeh, Lorna Kwai-Ping Suen, Lung-Chang Chien, Leah Margolis, Zhan Liang, Ronald M Glick, Natalia E Morone
Pain Medicine: the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pain Medicine 2015, 16 (10): 1857-69

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of a 4-week auricular point acupressure (APA) treatment on chronic low back pain (CLBP) outcomes and examine the day-to-day variability of CLBP in individuals receiving APA for CLBP over 29 days.

DESIGN: This was a prospective, randomized controlled trial (RCT). Data were collected at baseline, during each of the four office visits for APA treatment, after the completion of the 4-week intervention, and 1 month after the last treatment. A daily diary was given to each participant to record his or her APA practices, analgesic use, and pain intensity.

INTERVENTIONS: APA was used to manage CLBP. The participants received one APA treatment per week for 4 weeks.

PATIENTS AND SETTING: Sixty-one participants with CLBP were randomized into either a real APA or sham APA treatment group. Participants were recruited from primary care offices and clinics or through the Research Participant Registry at the University of Pittsburgh.

RESULTS: Among participants in the real APA group, a 30% reduction of worst pain was exhibited after the first day of APA treatment, and continuous reduction in pain (44%) was reported by the completion of the 4-week APA. This magnitude of pain reduction reached the clinically significant level of improvement reported in other clinical trials of chronic pain therapies. Analgesic use by participants in the real APA group also was reduced compared with use by participants in the sham group.

CONCLUSION: This study shows that APA is a promising pain management strategy that is not invasive and can be self-managed by participants for CLBP. Given the day-to-day fluctuation in ratings, the tighter ecologic assessment of pain scores and other treatment parameters are an important pragmatic aspect of the design of chronic pain studies.

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