Acupuncture Effective In Managing Acute Pain

A new study has found that acupuncture, the ancient practice of using needles to stimulate self-healing in the body, is more effective than intravenous morphine for acute pain relief. A study published in the
American Journal of Emergency Medicine, titled ‘Acupuncture vs Intravenous Morphine in the Management of Acute Pain’, reveals that acupuncture—one of the oldest techniques to treat pain—is more effective, faster in relieving pain, and with less adverse effects, than intravenous morphine.

The study was conducted throughout a year at the Fattouma Bourguiba University Hospital in Tunisia, a tertiary care facility with over 100,000 Emergency Department (ED) visits per year. Three-hundred ED patients with acute pain were included in the study: 150 in the morphine group (administered up to 15 mg a day) and 150 in the acupuncture group. The two groups were comparable regarding age, sex, and co-morbidities, with the only significant difference being that there were more abdominal pain patients in the morphine group and more low back pain cases in the acupuncture group.

One the authors of the study wrote, “Overall, 89 patients (29.3 percent) experienced minor adverse effects: 85 (56.6 percent) in morphine group and four (2.6 percent) in acupuncture group; the difference was significant between the two groups. The most frequent adverse effect was dizziness in the morphine group (42 percent) and needle breakage in the acupuncture group (2 percent). No major adverse effect was recorded during the study protocol.” In short, the acupuncture group saw a great pain-relieving effect, which occurred faster, with significantly fewer side effects.

The study concluded that “it has been demonstrated that in patients with acute pain syndromes presenting to the ED, acupuncture is at least as efficacious and has a better safety profile than IV morphine”. This suggests that acupuncture has a potential role in controlling acute pain conditions presenting to EDs, and appears to be safe and effective.

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