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Acupuncture for central pain affecting the ribcage following traumatic brain injury and rib fractures – a case report
  1. Clare P Donnellan, clinical specialist physiotherapist
  1. Linden Lodge, Neuro-Rehabilitation Unit Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust Nottingham, UK, clare.donnellan{at}


    This case report describes the use of acupuncture in the management of chronic central pain in a 51 year old man following severe traumatic brain injury and multiple injuries including rib fractures. The patient reported rapid and significant improvements in pain and mood during a course of acupuncture treatment. Chronic pain following traumatic brain injury is a significant problem. Chronic pain after rib fractures is also commonly reported. Acupuncture is widely used in the management of pain but its use has been reported rarely in the traumatic brain injury literature. This case report suggests that acupuncture may be a useful option to consider in these patients. Outcome was assessed formally using a 0 10 verbal numerical rating scale for pain, and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) for psychological status before and after the course of treatment. These scales are widely used in clinical practice as well as in research involving patients with traumatic brain injury, although they have not been validated in this population. The changes in this patient’s outcome scores were not consistent with the benefits he reported. Treatment of this patient highlighted the difficulties of using standardised self rating scales for patients with cognitive impairment. The report also discusses the effects of acupuncture on this patient’s mood.

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