Researchers from the Department of Anesthesiology of the Pain Clinic, in Hannover, Germany, compared the efficacy of auricular electrio-acupuncture (EA) to autogenic training (AT) for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Forty-four patients with RA were randomized to either EA or AT groups which met once a week for 6 weeks. 

Primary outcome measures were the mean weekly pain intensity and the disease activity score (DAS 28). Secondary outcome measures were the use of pain medication, the pain disability index (PDI), the clinical global impression (CGI) and pro-inflammatory cytokine levels, which were assessed during the study period and 3 months after the end of treatment.

At the end of treatment and at 3-month follow-up, a clinically meaningful and statistically significant improvement (p < 0.05) was observed in all outcome parameters and in both groups. 

In contrast to the AT group, the onset of these effects in the EA group could already be observed after the 2nd treatment week. In the 4th treatment week the EA group reported significantly less pain than the AT group (p = 0.040). After the end of treatment (7th week) the EA group assessed their outcome as significantly more improved than the AT group (p = 0.035). The erythrocyte sedimentation rate in the EA group was significantly reduced (p = 0.010), and the serum concentration of tumor necrosis factor-alpha was significantly increased compared to the AT group (p = 0.020).

CONCLUSIONS: The adjuvant use of both EA and AT in the treatment of RA resulted in significant short- and long-term treatment effects but the effects of auricular EA were more pronounced.

Citation:  Bernateck M, Becker M, Schwake C, Hoy L, Passie T, Parlesak A, Fischer MJ, Fink M, Karst M. Adjuvant auricular electroacupuncture and autogenic training in rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized controlled trial. Auricular acupuncture and autogenic training in rheumatoid arthritis. Forsch Komplementmed. 2008 Aug;15(4):187-93. Epub 2008 Jul 29. [email protected]