A recent study published in MJA.com.au revealed that acupuncture may serve as a safe and effective alternative to pain-relieving drugs for patients arriving at a hospital’s emergency room. As part of the study, a team of researchers led by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia that examined 528 patients with acute low back pain, migraine, or ankle sprains who were rushed to emergency rooms of various hospitals between January 2010 and December 2011.
The participants who rated their pain levels at four out of a 10-point scale received three types of treatment, which involved acupuncture alone, pharmacotherapy alone, or a combination of both. The study revealed that less than 40 percent of patients across all treatment groups reported significant reductions in pain after one hour of treatment, while more than 80 percent continued to have a pain rating of four. However, the research team noted that most patients rated their therapies acceptable after a treatment duration of 48 hours. According to the study, nearly 83 percent of patients in the acupuncture only-group said they would repeat the treatment, compared with only 78.2 percent in the pharmacotherapy-only group, and 80.8 percent in the combination treatment group.
“While acupuncture is widely used by practitioners in community settings for treating pain, it is rarely used in hospital emergency departments. Emergency nurses and doctors need a variety of pain-relieving options when treating patients, given the concerns around opioids such as morphine, which carry the risk of addiction when used long-term. Our study has shown acupuncture is a viable alternative, and would be especially beneficial for patients who are unable to take standard pain-relieving drugs because of other medical conditions. But it’s clear we need more research overall to develop better medical approaches to pain management, as the study also showed patients initially remained in some pain, no matter what treatment they received,” lead researcher Professor Marc Cohen quoted in ScienceDaily.com.
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“Some Australian emergency departments already offer acupuncture when trained staff are available but further studies are needed on ways to improve pain management overall in emergency departments, and the potential role for acupuncture in this. We need to determine the conditions that are most responsive to acupuncture, the feasibility of including the treatment in emergency settings, and the training needed for doctors or allied health personnel,” Prof. Cohen stated in a separate article in DailyMail.co.uk.
More studies attesting to how acupuncture relieves pain
The recent study was only one of the many research indicating acupuncture’s efficacy in pain management. In fact, a meta-analysis published last year in MayoClinicProceedings.org revealed that acupuncture was among other complementary health practices that showed favorable results in alleviating common pain. To carry out the analysis, a team of researchers from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health reviewed 105 U.S.-based randomized controlled trials and identified treatment that will address one or more of five painful conditions including back pain, osteoarthritis, and neck pain as well as fibromyalgia, severe headaches, and migraine.
The research team found that acupuncture was highly effective in treating back pain. The study also revealed that the alternative treatment can be used in alleviating osteoarthritis of the knee. The results offer both patients and health providers information that is necessary for discussing non-drug approaches in pain management, the research team concluded.
Another study published in Health.USNews.com showed that acupuncture therapy was highly effective in relieving pain and improving the quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. According to the study, the pain scores of patients who received acupuncture had an average decline of 41 percent at 10 weeks. In contrast, those who received a simulated acupuncture treatment had a 27 percent reduction in pain scores.