Auricular Acupuncture for Chronic Pain and Insomnia: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Med Acupunct. 2018 Oct 1;30(5):262-272. doi: 10.1089/acu.2018.1294. Epub 2018 Oct 15.


Objective: In the United States, ∼1.6 million adults use complementary and alternative or integrative medicine for treating pain and insomnia. However, very few studies have tested the use of auricular acupuncture using a standard protocol for chronic pain and insomnia. The aims of this research were to assess the feasibility and credibility of auricular acupuncture, and to evaluate the effects of auricular acupuncture on pain severity and interference scores, and on insomnia severity over an 8-day study period. Materials and Methods: Forty-five participants were randomized to either an auricular acupuncture group (AAG) or a usual care group (CG) on study day 4. A standard auricular acupuncture protocol was administered, with penetrating semipermanent acupuncture needles in place for up to 4 days. The main outcome measures were feasibility of conducting the study, credibility of auricular acupuncture as a treatment modality, Brief Pain Inventory pain severity and interference scores, and Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) scores. Results: There was high interest in the study and the retention was 96%. Credibility of auricular acupuncture as a treatment was high in both groups. The use of the standard auricular acupuncture protocol in the AAG led to significant within- and between-group reduced pain severity and interference scores, compared to the CG. Both groups showed within-group decreased ISI scores. However, the AAG showed significant between-group reduced ISI severity scores compared to the CG. Conclusions: With the heightened focus on the opioid crisis in the United States, this easy-to-administer protocol may be an option for treating military beneficiaries who have chronic pain and insomnia.

Keywords: Battlefield Acupuncture; auricular acupuncture; chronic pain; insomnia; military; veterans.