Auricular Acupuncture for the Treatment of Pediatric Migraines in the Emergency Department

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2018 Apr;34(4):258-262. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000000789.


Objectives: Headache remains a frequent complaint for children presenting to a pediatric emergency department (ED). Typical treatments include oral or intravenous medications, but do not always relieve pain. An alternative intervention is auricular acupuncture. It has been shown to be effective in the treatment of migraines in adults. The objective of this study was to evaluate the utility and adverse effects of auricular acupuncture in the treatment of pediatric migraines in the ED.

Methods: This was a prospective, interventional, cohort study of patients 8 to 18 years of age. Efficacious ear points were located by needle contact or electrical point finder with attention to 2 migraine lines on the ear. ASP gold semipermanent ear needles were placed in the efficacious points and patients were monitored for 15 minutes. The primary outcome was the change in preintervention and postintervention pain scores using a numerical self-reported pain visual analog scale (VAS).

Results: Nineteen patients elected to enroll in the study. The mean change in the VAS scores was both clinically and statistically significant at 7.03 (interquartile range, 6-8.5) with a P value of less than 0.001. Two patients elected to withdraw from the study secondary to incomplete resolution of migraine pain despite improvement in VAS scores. There were no known adverse events.

Conclusions: With all subjects showing improvement or resolution of migraine headache, this pilot study introduces an alternative intervention to pediatric migraine management. Further studies are needed to evaluate the duration of symptom resolution and comparative effectiveness; auricular acupuncture seems to be a valid alternative.

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture, Ear / adverse effects
  • Acupuncture, Ear / methods*
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Migraine Disorders / therapy*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome