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Clin J Pain. 2009 Sep;25(7):624-31. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e3181a49e35.

A single point acupuncture treatment at large intestine meridian: a randomized controlled trial in acute tonsillitis and pharyngitis.

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Multidisciplinary Pain Center, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Munich, Pettenkoferstr 8A, 80336 München, Germany.



One out of 4 patients visiting a general practitioner reports of a sore throat associated with pain on swallowing. This study was established to examine the immediate pain alleviating effect of a single point acupuncture treatment applied to the large intestine meridian of patients with sore throat.


Sixty patients with acute tonsillitis and pharyngitis were enrolled in this randomized placebo-controlled trial. They either received acupuncture, or sham laser acupuncture, directed to the large intestine meridian section between acupuncture points LI 8 and LI 10. The main outcome measure was the change of pain intensity on swallowing a sip of water evaluated by a visual analog scale 15 minutes after treatment. A credibility assessment regarding the respective treatment was performed.


The pain intensity for the acupuncture group before and immediately after therapy was 5.6+/-2.8 and 3.0+/-3.0, and for the sham group 5.6+/-2.5 and 3.8+/-2.5, respectively. Despite the articulation of a more pronounced improvement among the acupuncture group, there was no significant difference between groups (Delta=0.9, confidence interval: -0.2-2.0; P=0.12; analysis of covariance). Patients' satisfaction was high in both treatment groups. The study was prematurely terminated due to a subsequent lack of suitable patients.


A single acupuncture treatment applied to a selected area of the large intestine meridian was no more effective in the alleviation of pain associated with clinical sore throat than sham laser acupuncture applied to the same area. Hence, clinically relevant improvement could be achieved. Pain alleviation might partly be due to the intense palpation of the large intestine meridian. The benefit of a comprehensive acupuncture treatment protocol in this condition should be subject to further trials.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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