Emergency medicine is not all about high-tech solutions.
According to new research, using acupuncture in the emergency department can relieve acute pain.
The study, published today in the Medical Journal of Australia, finds acupuncture is as effective as medication in treating pain for lower back pain and ankle sprain. But it took more than an hour for either to provide adequate pain relief.
The study builds on previous research to show the effectiveness of acupuncture to treat long-term pain. Whilst researcher were aware that several emergency department doctors were treating patients’ pain with acupuncture, until these research results, no-one had set up a trial to show how effective it actually is.
The trial itself was an “equivalence” study, comparing different treatments to see if they were better than placebo. Assigning more than 500 patients to receive standard painkillers, standard painkillers plus acupuncture and acupuncture alone when they presented with back pain, migraines or ankle sprain at four Melbourne hospitals. The type of acupuncture used included applying needles at specific points on the body for each condition. After treatment, each patients’ pain was assessed every hour until discharge.
Results concluded that acupuncture, either alone or with painkillers, was equivalent to drugs-alone in providing pain relief for lower back pain and ankle sprain but not for migraines.