Acupressure Decreases Post-Operative Pain

Auricular acupressure reduces post-operative pain in subjects with osteoarthritis after total knee replacement, according to a study published in July 2013. Postoperative pain has a significant effect on patient recovery. In a national survey of U.S. adults who had undergone a recent surgical procedure, approximately 80 percent of patients experienced pain after surgery, with 86 percent of these individuals reporting moderate, severe or extreme pain.

The subjects included 90 individuals with degenerative osteoarthritis undergoing a total knee replacement. The subjects received either auricular acupressure on the same side as the surgery by embedding vaccaria seeds at four acupuncture sites including knee joint, shenmen, subcortex, sympathesis or at four non-acupuncture points on the auricular (ear) helix to serve as the control group. The researchers assessed the use of painkillers, the incidence of analgesia-related adverse effects, Hospital for Special Surgery scores and range of motion.

The investigators found that visual analog score—which assesses pain—was similar at 12, 24, 36 and 48 hours post-surgery. However, visual analog scores were lower in the acupressure group at three, four, five and seven days post-surgery compared to the control group.  The researchers also determined that the acupressure group used lower doses of painkillers and had a lower incidence of analgesia-related adverse effects compared to the control group.

The study authors concluded, “Applying auricular acupoint acupressure in the perioperative period of total knee arthroplasty [replacement] is favorable for alleviating postoperative pain, decreasing opioid consumption and its adverse effects, and promoting early rehabilitation. Also, this intervention has the advantage of lower costs, fewer complications, simple application and high safety.”


He BJ, et al. Pain Med. 2013 Jul 18. [Epub ahead of print.]

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