Background and Objective: Earthquakes are associated with severe psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Current first-line therapies for PTSD have well-known side-effects. Acupuncture is a complementary approach to help patients cope with mental problems after natural disasters and public health events. This article describes an acupuncture intervention conducted by the Lombard Association of Medical Acupuncturists/Acupuncture in the World in the earthquake-stricken area of Amatrice in Central Italy and measures the effect of acupuncture on earthquake-related pain and psychologic symptoms in the victims. Methods: The intervention lasted 5 weeks, from September to October 2016. Adult patients with psychologic symptoms and musculoskeletal pain were included. Treatments were performed by experienced medical acupuncturists. A verbal/numerical scale was developed to quantify the effect of intervention. A Wilcoxon rank-sum test was used for comparison of the scores before and after the acupuncture treatment. Results: Of the patients, 68.3% reported having both pain and psychologic symptoms. The most frequently used meridian points were Kidney (13.17%), followed by Large Intestine (12.46%), Spleen (12.04%) and Gall Bladder (10.34%). After 3 treatments performed in daily sessions, 54.05% and 60.6% of patients reported marked improvements in psychologic and pain symptoms, respectively. Statistical analysis showed a significant difference between the scores reported before the first treatment and after the third treatment, both for pain (P = 0.000) and psychologic symptoms (P = 0.000). No serious adverse events were reported. Conclusions: These results suggest that acupuncture could be a useful tool for reducing pain and psychologic symptoms related to earthquakes, but further research is required in this specific area.
Keywords: acupuncture; earthquake; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).