Background: Auricular acupuncture (AA) has been shown to alleviate acute and chronic pain. We investigated the effects of auricular electroacupuncture (AE) on pain and analgesic drug consumption in the first 48 h after unilateral mandibular third molar tooth extraction under local anesthesia in a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 149 patients.
Methods: Patients received either AA with electrical stimulation (AE, n = 76) or without (AA, n = 37) electrical stimulation at an alternating frequency of 2/100 Hz or a sham AE with metal plates instead of needles and no electrical stimulation, no-needle (NN, n = 36) at the AA points 1 (tooth), 55 (Shen men) and 84 (mouth) during the entire study period. Regularly rated pain intensity (five-point verbal rating scale), consumption of acetaminophen 500 mg tablets and additional rescue medication with mefenamic acid 500 mg were assessed.
Results: The median fraction of time when pain was rated as moderate or worse (upper and lower quartile): AE: 33% (12%, 64%), AA: 22% (6%, 56%), NN: 30% (7%, 53%) did not differ significantly among the treatment groups. There were no significant differences in mean number of acetaminophen 500 mg tablets (range): AE: 5.2 (0-12), AA: 4.6 (0-11), NN: 5.4 (0-10) or percentage of patients requiring additional mefenamic acid: AE: 19%, AA: 18%, NN: 19%.
Conclusion: We conclude that neither AE nor AA alone reduce either pain intensity or analgesic consumption in a molar tooth extraction model of acute pain.