Background Chronic uncomplicated musculoskeletal pain in the spine (cervical, thoracic or lumbar) is highly prevalent and may severely limit the daily activities of those affected by it.
Objective To evaluate the efficacy and safety of treatment with auriculopressure applied to patients with non-specific spinal pain.
Methods A multicentre randomised controlled trial with two parallel arms (true auriculopressure (TAP) and placebo auriculopressure (PAP)) was performed. The intervention phase lasted 8 weeks and outcomes were measured 1 week after the last intervention (T1) and 6 months after baseline (T2). The primary outcome measure was change in pain intensity according to a 100 mm visual analogue scale (pain VAS) at T1. Secondary outcome measures were the Lattinen index, the McGill Pain Questionnaire and the SF-12 health-related quality of life scale (Spanish version in every case).
Results There were 265 participants (TAP group, n=130; PAP group, n=135). Pain was most frequently located in the upper back (55.1%, n=146), followed by the lower back (25.3%, n=67) and the dorsal area (12.5%, n=33). Nineteen patients (7.2%) reported pain affecting the entire spine. There were statistically significant differences between TAP and PAP in the change in the pain VAS at T1 of 10 mm (95% CI 2.8 to 17.3, p=0.007) and in the change in the pain VAS at T2 of 7.2 mm (95% CI 0.02 to 14.3, p=0.049) in favour of TAP. We also observed a statistically significant difference of 3.4 points in the physical component of the SF-12 in favour of TAP at T2 (95% CI 0.45 to 6.3, p=0.024). No severe adverse effects were detected or reported during treatment.
Conclusions The application of auriculopressure in patients with non-specific spinal pain in primary healthcare is effective and safe, and therefore should be considered for inclusion in the portfolio of primary healthcare services.
Trial registration number ISRCTN01897462.
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