Evaluating Auricular Point Acupressure for Chronic Low Back Pain Self-Management Using Technology: A Feasibility Study

Chao Hsing Yeh, Jennifer Kawi, Aiguo Ni, Paul Christo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Chronic low back pain, one of the most common reasons for seeking healthcare services, causes significant negative impacts on individuals and society. Nonpharmacologic therapies and self-management are included in practice guidelines, but their implementation is challenging. Aim: To assess the feasibility of using an auricular point acupressure (APA) mobile app as a self-guided tool to learn and self-administer APA to manage chronic low back pain (cLBP) and to compare cLBP outcomes between 2 groups (app vs app + telehealth). Design: A 2-phase study design was used. In phase 1, participants (app group, n = 18) had in-person study visits and installed the app to learn and self-administer APA to manage cLBP. In phase 2, all research activities occurred remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so a second group was recruited (app + telehealth, n = 19). The app + telehealth group underwent a virtual session, installed the app, and were provided the opportunity for questions and verification on the accuracy of the self-administered APA. Setting: The participants were recruited by distributing study flyers at outpatient clinics and referrals. Participants: Participants with chronic low back pain were eliglbe for the study. Methods: Using a quasi-experimental design with a mixed methods approach, all participants were instructed to download the APA app, provided an APA kit (includes seeds embedded within pre-cut squares of adhesive tape), and advised to self-administer APA with guidance from the app for 4 weeks to manage their cLBP. Study outcomes were collected at the preintervention time point as well as postintervention and 1-month follow-up. Interviews were also conducted at the postintervention time point. Results: Of the 37 participants enrolled, six dropped out, and the attrition rate was 16%. Adherence to APA practice was high (85%-94%). After 4 weeks of APA treatment, participants in the app + telehealth group experienced a 29% decrease in pain intensity during the postintervention time point and a 35% reduction during the 1-month follow-up. Similar improvements were noted in pain interference (28%) and physical function (39%) for participants in the app + telehealth group at the 1-month follow-up. These changes are slightly higher compared with those in the app group (21% pain intensity reduction, 23% improved pain interferences, and 26% improved physical function) during the 1-month follow-up. Overall, APA was found to be feasible using the app and the qualitative findings showed acceptability of the intervention in both groups. Conclusions: It is feasible to learn and self-administer APA with an app, supplemented with either in-person or telehealth sessions, presenting a promising intervention toward cLBP self-management. Telehealth was found to boost this intervention effectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-310
Number of pages10
JournalPain Management Nursing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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