Auriculotherapy (or ear acupuncture) is the use of electrical, mechanical, or other stimuli at specific points on the outer ear for therapeutic purposes. It was invented by the French neurologist Paul Nogier (1908–1996) who published his “Treatise of Auriculotherapy” in 1961. Auriculotherapy is based on the idea that the human outer ear is an area that reflects the entire body. Proponents of auriculotherapy refer to maps where our inner organs and body parts are depicted on the outer ear. These maps are not in line with our knowledge of anatomy and physiology. Auriculotherapy thus lacks plausibility.
This single-blind randomized, placebo-controlled study aimed to investigate the effect of auriculotherapy on the intensity of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) symptoms.
Ninety-one women were randomly assigned to
- Auriculotherapy (AG),
- Placebo (PG),
- Control (CG) groups.
The intervention was 8 weeks long, done once per week. At each session in AG the microneedles were placed in seven points related to PMS symptoms (Anxiety; Endocrine; Muscle relaxation; Analgesia; Kidney; Shen Men; and Sympathetic). At PG the microneedles also were placed in seven points but unrelated to PMS symptoms (Tonsils; Vocal cords; Teeth; Eyes; Allergy; Mouth; and External nose). The women allocate in the CG received o intervention during the evaluation period.
Assessments of PMS symptoms (Premenstrual Syndrome Screening Tool), musculoskeletal pain (Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire), anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory), and quality of life (WHOQOL-Bref) were done at baseline, before the 5th session, after program completion, and a month follow-up.
The AG and PG showed significantly lower scores of PMS symptoms, musculoskeletal pain, and anxiety. On the quality of life and follow-up analysis, the significance was observed only in PG.
The authors concluded that auriculotherapy can be used as adjunctive therapy to reduce the physical and mood PMS symptoms.
If I understand it correctly (the paper is unclear), verum and placebo were both better than no intervention but showed no significant differences when compared to each other. This is strong evidence that auriculotherapy is, in fact, a placebo. To make matters worse, in the follow-up analysis placebo seems to be superior to auriculotherapy.
Another issue might be adverse effects. Microneedle implants can cause severe complications. Thus it is mandatory to monitor adverse effects in clinical trials. This does not seem to have happened in this case.
The mind boggles!
How on earth could the authors conclude that auriculotherapy can be used as adjunctive therapy to reduce the physical and mood PMS symptoms.
The answer: a case of scientific misconduct?