Research News

Does acupuncture belong in the emergency room?

June, 2017    |

A new study suggests that acupuncture could be an alternative to pain relievers for some patients in emergency rooms.

The research, which came out of the world’s largest randomized controlled trial on this subject, found that acupuncture was as effective as pain medicine in providing long-term relief for patients who came to emergency in considerable pain.
Led by RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, the study revealed that pain management still remains a critical issue. Lead investigator Professor Marc Cohen, from RMIT’s School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, notes that pain was the most common reason for emergency room visits, but that it was often inadequately managed.

“While acupuncture is widely used by practitioners in community settings for treating pain, it is rarely used in hospital emergency departments,” says Cohen. “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.”

The study looked at 528 patients with migraine, acute low back pain, or ankle sprains.
Patients who identified their level of pain as at least four out of 10 randomly received one of three types of treatment: acupuncture, acupuncture plus pharmacotherapy or just pharmacotherapy.

Forty-eight hours after treatment, the vast majority saw pain decrease, with 82.8 per cent of acupuncture-only patients saying they would repeat their treatment. As such, acupuncture is something to consider when it comes to treating patients experiencing pain.