Auriculotherapy for pain management

Auriculotherapy for pain management: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

Author: Asher GN, Jonas DE, Coeytaux RR, Reilly AC, Loh YL, Motsinger-Reif AA, Winham SJ.

Location: Department of Family Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, USA.

Abstract
ear acupucture exeter imageOBJECTIVES:
Side-effects of standard pain medications can limit their use. Therefore, nonpharmacologic pain relief techniques such as auriculotherapy may play an important role in pain management. Our aim was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies evaluating auriculotherapy for pain management.
DESIGN:
MEDLINE,(®) ISI Web of Science, CINAHL, AMED, and Cochrane Library were searched through December 2008. Randomized trials comparing auriculotherapy to sham, placebo, or standard-of-care control were included that measured outcomes of pain or medication use and were published in English. Two (2) reviewers independently assessed trial eligibility, quality, and abstracted data to a standardized form. Standardized mean differences (SMD) were calculated for studies using a pain score or analgesic requirement as a primary outcome.
RESULTS:
Seventeen (17) studies met inclusion criteria (8 perioperative, 4 acute, and 5 chronic pain). Auriculotherapy was superior to controls for studies evaluating pain intensity (SMD, 1.56 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.85, 2.26]; 8 studies). For perioperative pain, auriculotherapy reduced analgesic use (SMD, 0.54 [95% CI: 0.30, 0.77]; 5 studies). For acute pain and chronic pain, auriculotherapy reduced pain intensity (SMD for acute pain, 1.35 [95% CI: 0.08, 2.64], 2 studies; SMD for chronic pain, 1.84 [95% CI: 0.60, 3.07], 5 studies). Removal of poor quality studies did not alter the conclusions. Significant heterogeneity existed among studies of acute and chronic pain, but not perioperative pain.
CONCLUSIONS:
Auriculotherapy may be effective for the treatment of a variety of types of pain, especially postoperative pain. However, a more accurate estimate of the effect will require further large, well-designed trials.

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