Introducing vibro-acupuncture: a psychophysical study

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Abstract

Background/aim

To potentially enhance the effects of conventional acupuncture, a novel acu-vibrator (prototype) has been developed to perform vibro-acupuncture (VA). The aim of this psychophysical study was to investigate the subjective sensations of VA compared with conventional manual acupuncture (MA) and non-penetrating sham acupuncture (SA).

Methods

30 young healthy volunteers (21 men and 9 women) received VA, MA, and SA at LI4 and LI10 in a randomised, single-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over manner. After 25 min of treatment, the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) acupuncture sensation scale (MASS), McGill pain questionnaire (MPQ), and numerical rating scale (NRS; 0–10) were employed followed by the acupuncture credibility and indication scale. Adverse events were investigated after treatment. Data were analysed using Friedman's test for repeated measures on ranks and post hoc Wilcoxon signed-rank tests with Bonferroni correction.

Results

The MASS scores were significantly higher during MA and VA compared with SA at both LI4 and LI10 (p<0.017). Treatment with VA evoked significantly higher vibration sensations compared with MA and SA (p<0.005). Treatment with SA yielded significantly lower NRS and MPQ scores compared with MA and VA (p<0.001) with no difference between MA and VA (p>0.05). Blinding of participants was achieved for SA and MA; however, VA was correctly identified in 29 of 30 subjects due to the characteristic vibrational stimulation. No serious adverse events were recorded for any of the treatments.

Conclusions

Subjective sensations were influenced by treatment mode, with MA and VA yielding higher stimulation responses compared with SA. VA evoked specific vibrational sensations beyond MA, which might have specific effects in various disorders.

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