Acupuncture relieves rib fracture pain. A randomized controlled study of 58 inpatients with fractured ribs examined the effects of acupuncture analgesia against a placebo control. The researchers concluded that acupuncture is both safe and effective. The research team documented that acupuncture provides significant long lasting pain relief for rib fracture patients. The researchers note that acupuncture relieved pain “regardless of the number of fractured ribs or the severity of trauma.”
The acupuncture point selection deviated from the classical application of ashi points and hua tou jia ji points for the treatment of rib related pain. The researchers selected points based on “non-diseased areas” that were related to areas of pain. The research team notes that their point selection protocol is a “novel” approach. The researchers asked each patient to identify the areas of maximum pain. The points needled were vertically corresponding points located on an x-axis at the level of the navel. The points needled are shown in the image example below. Subjective pain point “a” was treated with a point selection at point “A.” The new approach to point selection was prompted by efforts to create a simplified acupuncture point selection protocol that is easily performed in an inpatient setting.
The patients were treated one time per day with 5 acupuncture points being needled each time. The acupuncture filiform needles were 2.5 cm long of 30 gauge. Needles were applied at a 15 degree angle for an insertion depth of 2 cm. The researchers note that pain relief was often immediate.
Given the novelty of the point selection method used in the study, the researchers note that further investigation is required to examine the mechanisms by which this type of acupuncture exerts its analgesic effects. The research team notes that prior research of acupuncture points located on traditional acupuncture meridians documents specific physiological and neural mechanisms active in acupuncture analgesia including biochemical changes in serotonergic systems and neurotransmitter expression. They note that since this acupuncture style is unique, new research is necessary to document the biochemical mechanisms by which it attenuates pain.
Ho, H. Y., C. W. Chen, M. C. Li, Y. P. Hsu, S. C. Kang, E. H. Liu, and K. H. Lee. “A novel and effective acupuncture modality as a complementary therapy to acute pain relief in inpatients with rib fractures.” Biomedical Journal 37, no. 3 (2014): 147.