A prospective randomized controlled study of auricular point acupressure to manage chronic low back pain in older adults: Study protocol

Chao Hsing Yeh, Cuicui Li, Ronald Glick, Elizabeth A. Schlenk, Kathryn Albers, Lorna Kwai Ping Suen, Nada Lukkahatai, Nicole Salen, Sonaali Pandiri, Weixia Ma, Nancy Perrin, Natalia E. Morone, Paul J. Christo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Chronic low back pain (cLBP) is a major health problem and the most common pain condition among those aged 60 years or older in the US. Despite the development of pharmacological and nonpharmacological interventions, cLBP outcomes have not improved and disability rates continue to rise. This study aims to test auricular point acupressure (APA) as a non-invasive, nonpharmacological self-management strategy to manage cLBP and to address current shortcomings of cLBP treatment. Methods/design: For this prospective randomized controlled study, participants will be randomly assigned to three groups: (1) APA group (active points related to cLBP), (2) Comparison group-1 (non-active points, unrelated to cLBP), and (3) Comparison group-2 (enhanced educational control, an educational booklet on cLBP will be given and the treatment used by participants for their cLBP will be recorded). The ecological momentary assessment smartphone app will be used to collect real-time cLBP outcomes and adherence to APA practice. Treatment and nonspecific psychological placebo effects will be measured via questionnaires for all participants. This proposed trial will evaluate the APA sustained effects for cLBP at 12-month follow-up. Monthly telephone follow-up will be used to collect study outcomes. Blood will be collected during study visits at baseline, post APA treatment, and follow-up study visits at 1, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months post completion of treatment for a total of seven assessments. Appointments will start between 9 and 11 am to control for circadian variation in cytokine levels. Discussion: This study is expected to provide vital information on the efficacy, sustainability, and underlying mechanism of APA on cLBP necessary for APA to gain acceptance from both healthcare providers and patients, which would provide a strong impetus for including APA as part of cLBP management in clinical and home settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number99
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 2020


  • Auricular point acupressure
  • Chronic low back pain
  • Cytokines
  • Older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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