Acupuncture Analgesia for Pain

Acupuncture, alone or as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy provides effective, safe and acceptable pain relief for patients.

Acupuncture as analgesia for low back pain, ankle sprain and migraine in emergency departments: Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Marc Cohen, Shefton Parker, David Taylor, De Villiers Smit, Michael Ben-Meir, Peter Cameron and Charlie Xue: Trials, 01 November 2011, Vol.12(1), pp.241

Background: Pain is the most common reason that patients present to an emergency department (ED) and is often inadequately managed. Evidence suggests that acupuncture is effective for pain relief, yet it is rarely practiced in the ED. The current study aims to assess the efficacy of acupuncture for providing effective analgesia to patients presenting with acute low back pain, migraine and ankle sprain at the EDs of four hospitals in Melbourne, Australia.

Method: The study is a multi-site, randomized, assessor-blinded, controlled trial of acupuncture analgesia in patients who present to an ED with low back pain, migraine or ankle sprain. Patients will be block randomized to receive either acupuncture alone, acupuncture as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy or pharmacotherapy alone. Acupuncture will be applied according to Standards for Reporting Interventions in Clinical Trials of Acupuncture (STRICTA). Pain after one hour, measured using a visual analogue scale (VAS), is the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes measures include the following instruments; the Oswestry low back pain disability questionnaire, 24-hour Migraine Quality of Life questionnaire and Patient’s Global Assessment of Ankle Injury Scale. These measures will be recorded at baseline, 1 hour after intervention, each hour until discharge and 48 ± 12 hours of ED discharge. Data will also be collected on the safety and acceptability of acupuncture and health resource utilization.

Discussion: The results of this study will determine if acupuncture, alone or as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy provides effective, safe and acceptable pain relief for patients presenting to EDs with acute back pain, migraine or ankle sprain. The results will also identify the impact that acupuncture treatment may have upon health resource utilisation in the ED setting.

Trial registration: Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Register (ANZCTR): ACTRN12609000989246

Keywords: Acupuncture, pain, ankle sprain, migraine, low back pain, emergency, acute

Acupuncture and standard emergency department care for pain and/or nausea and its impact on emergency care delivery: a feasibility study:Zhang, Anthony L ; Parker, Shefton J ; Smit, De Villiers ; Taylor, David Mcd ; Xue, Charlie C L Acupuncture in Medicine, 7 June 2014, Vol.32(3), p.250


Objective To evaluate the feasibility of delivering acupuncture in an emergency department (ED) to patients presenting with pain and/or nausea.

Methods A feasibility study (with historical controls) undertaken at the Northern Hospital ED in Melbourne, Australia, involving people presenting to ED triage with pain (VAS 0-10) and/or nausea (Morrow Index 1-6) between January and August 2010 (n=400). The acupuncture group comprised 200 patients who received usual medical care and acupuncture; the usual care group comprised 200 patients with retrospective data closely matched from ED electronic health records.

Results Refusal rate was 31%, with ‘symptoms under control owing to medical treatment before acupuncture’ the most prevalent reason for refusal (n=36); 52.5% of participants responded ‘definitely yes’ for their willingness to repeat acupuncture, and a further 31.8% responded ‘probably yes’. Over half (57%) reported a satisfaction score of 10 for acupuncture treatment. Musculoskeletal conditions were the most common conditions treated n=117 (58.5%), followed by abdominal or flank pain n=49 (24.5%). Adverse events were rare (2%) and mild. Pain and nausea scores reduced from a mean±SD of 7.01±2.02 before acupuncture to 4.72±2.62 after acupuncture and from 2.6±2.19 to 1.42±1.86, respectively.

Conclusions Acupuncture in the ED appears safe and acceptable for patients with pain and/or nausea. Results suggest combined care may provide effective pain and nausea relief in ED patients. Further high-quality, sufficiently powered randomised studies evaluating the cost-effectiveness and efficacy of the add-on effect of acupuncture are recommended.