Background: Pain control has been emphasized as a priority for both practitioners and inpatients with rib fractures, since analgesia could only offer limited relief from severe pain. A prospective and randomized controlled trial was conducted to analyze the efficacy and efficiency of acupuncture in acute pain relief for inpatients with rib fractures.
Methods: A total of 58 inpatients were recruited and allocated to two groups, receiving identical doses of conventional oral analgesics as well as filiform needles as treatment and thumbtack intradermal (TI) needles placed upon the skin surface as a control, respectively, via novel acupuncture modality once daily for three consecutive days. The effect of pain relief was evaluated during activities that induce pain, and sustained maximal inspiration (SMI) lung volumes and sleep quality were assessed.
Results: The patients treated with filiform needles had more effective pain relief than those in the TI needle group during deep breathing, coughing, and turning over the body (p < 0.05), and the effect persisted for at least 6 h in most patients. Sustained maximal inspiration lung volumes and sleep quality did not show improvement through every acupuncture intervention, and they could not respond accurately to pain relief via acupuncture.
Conclusion: The active evaluation could provide a more adaptive model for assessing pain intensity due to rib fractures. This novel acupuncture modality in which the needle insertion sites are corresponding to the pain spots can be a safe and viable therapy for relieving pain in inpatients with rib fractures.