Ear acupuncture in the control of migraine pain: selecting the right acupoints by the “needle-contact test”
There is increasing evidence that somatic acupuncture can be helpful in migraine treatment, but substantial data on ear acupuncture (EAP) are still lacking. EAP can be useful both in the diagnosis and in the treatment of many medical conditions. As regards the control of migrainous pain, we present a case report in which a procedure called the “needle-contact test” is described in detail. During a migraine attack, the patient undergoes an accurate search for tender points of the outer ear by means of a specific pressure algometer. Once the most sensitive point has been identified, an acupuncture needle is placed in contact with it for about 10 s, without skin penetration. The expected effect is a quick and evident reduction of acute pain. If no appreciable variation in pain intensity occurs within the following 60 s, a second or third attempt is made on other previously identified tender points, until the point at which the patient notices a clear remission of pain is found. In this positive case, the same testing needle can be immediately used for therapy, completely penetrating the skin, and then extracted after about 30 min. Alternatively, a temporary needle can be implanted and left in situ for a variable period of time (1–15 days). This innovative technique allows the identification, with maximum accuracy, of the most effective ear acupoints on migraine pain during acute attacks.