The following is a summary of the “Biological Correlates of the Effects of Auricular Point Acupressure on Pain,” published in the February 2023 issue of Pain management by Yeh, et al.

Studying the relationships between pain intensity, interference, and inflammatory biomarkers can shed light on the underlying process by which auricular point acupressure (APA) alleviates pain. However, the data used here came from a different source. Results from 3 pilot investigations (chronic low back pain, n = 61; arthralgia due to aromatase inhibitors, n = 20; and chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, n = 15) were combined and evaluated. 

This paper presents findings based on differences in pain intensity, interference, and biomarkers between targeted-point APA (T-APA) and non-targeted APA (NT-APA), as well as within-subject treatment effects (change in scores from pre- to post-APA intervention) for each study group (chronic low back pain, cancer pain). Around 3 biomarkers showed statistically significant changes in the within-group analysis (the change score from pre- to post-APA): tumor necrosis factor-alpha (cancer pain in the APA group, P =.03), beta-endorphin (back pain in the APA group, P =.04), and interleukin-2 (back pain in the NT-APA group, P =.002). 

Between-group investigation of patients with chronic low back pain (T-APA vs. NT-APA) revealed that IL-4 was significantly more effective than TNF-α (0.29). The correlation between IL-1β and IL-2 was quite positive and monotonic. These results add to the growing body of evidence suggesting that inflammatory indicators play a part in the analgesic benefits of APA. There is still much to learn about how APA affects chronic pain. In contrast to opioids, APA may be extensively disseminated because it is easy to use, cheap, and has no known severe side effects.