The world’s largest randomised controlled trial of acupuncture in emergency departments has found the treatment is a safe and an effective alternative to pain-relieving drugs for some patients.
Led by RMIT University, the trial was conducted in the emergency departments of four Melbourne hospitals. It also showed pain management remains a critical issue, with neither drugs of acupuncture providing adequate, immediate relief.
Lead investigator Professor Marc Cohen said pain was the most common reason people came to emergency but 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,” Professor Cohen said.
He said 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,” Professor Cohen said.
The study involved patients with acute lower back pain, migraine or ankle sprains.
Forty-eight hours after treatment, the level of patient satisfaction with their pain relief was similar for groups who experience acupuncture and those who received pharmacotherapy.
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