Effect of a single session of ear acupuncture on pain intensity and postural control in individuals with chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled trial

Braz J Phys Ther. Jul-Aug 2016;20(4):328-35. doi: 10.1590/bjpt-rbf.2014.0158. Epub 2016 Jun 16.


Background: Ear Acupuncture (EA) is a form of acupuncture in which needles are applied to the external ear and has been used in multiple painful conditions. Low back pain (LBP) is highly prevalent in active individuals and causes high economic burden to health systems worldwide. LBP affects the person's ability to keep balance, especially in challenging conditions.

Objective: The aim of the study was to examine the effects of a single session of EA on pain intensity and body sway during postural tasks.

Method: Eighty adults with LBP and pain intensity equal to or greater than 4 (0-10 scale) were randomly allocated (1:1) to EA group (EAG) or placebo group (PG). Initially, the level of pain intensity was assessed. Next, participants stood still on a force plate either with feet in parallel or in semi-tandem and with eyes open or closed. Then, the EAG was treated with EA for 20 min and the PG was treated with detuned ultrasound. After the treatment, pain intensity was assessed again and the postural test was repeated. Pain intensity was the primary outcome and center of pressure sway area and speed were the secondary outcomes measured.

Results: Results revealed that pain intensity decreased in both groups after treatment, but decreased more in the EAG. For postural control, no effect of treatment and no interaction between treatment and postural condition on body sway were found.

Conclusion: Those findings indicate that EA is better than placebo to reduce pain, but neither treatment has any effect on postural control.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01995279.

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture, Ear*
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01995279