Aim To examine the proposed somatotopic relation between the regions in which patients report musculoskeletal pain and tender points located on the external ears according to a map based on commonly used auricular acupuncture maps.
Methods Twenty-five patients (16 women) from a chronic pain clinic were included. Patients were asked, before examination of the external ears, if they had past or present musculoskeletal pain in any of 11 body regions. An ear map, collapsed into 11 zones representing the musculoskeletal system, was used. The ear examiner was blinded to the patients’ pain conditions, medical history and ongoing treatment. Patients communicated with the examiner only to express if tenderness was present in the external ear on palpation using a spring-loaded pressure stylus commonly used for auricular acupuncture. The degree of tenderness was registered on a 5-point scale and dichotomised (no tenderness or tenderness). Agreements between the patients’ painful body regions and tenderness in the external ear zones were presented as percentage, kappa values, sensitivity and specificity.
Results The 25 patients reported 116 past or present musculoskeletal pain regions and had 110 tender ear zones. No statistically significant agreements were found between the painful body regions and the corresponding tender ear zones.
Conclusions Our results did not show agreements between patients’ reported musculoskeletal pain regions and tender zones in the external ears assessed according to commonly used maps in auricular acupuncture using a pressure stylus. However, very tender points occur on the external ear in a population with chronic musculoskeletal pain.
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