In June 2017 it was published that the world’s largest randomised control of acupuncture in emergency departments, found that the treatment of acupuncture is a safe and effective alternative treatment to pain relieving drugs for some patients.
The trial, led by the RMIT University, Melbourne Australia, was conducted in the emergency departments of four Melbourne hospitals, between January 2010 and December 2011. It was funded by a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council and led by Professor Marc Cohen from RMIT’s School of Health and Biomedical Sciences. The study found that acupuncture was effective as pain medicine in providing long term relief to emergency patients in considerable pain. It involved 528 patients with acute low back pain, migraine, or ankle pain. Patients, rating their pain levels between four and 10 received either, only acupuncture, acupuncture and pharmacotherapy or pharmacotherapy alone. Less than 40% of patients in all three groups felt any significant reduction in pain. However 48 hours later, 82.8% of acupuncture-only patients said that they would probably repeat their treatment. compared to 80.8% in the combined group and 78.2% in the pharmacotherapy-only group.
Professor Cohen stated, that although acupuncture is used widely within the community, it is rarely used in a hospital emergency department. “But it is clear,” he said, “we need more research overall to develop better medical approaches to pain management, as the study also showed patients initially remained in some pain, no matter what treatment they received. Our study has shown that 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 went on to say that , “some Australian emergency departments already offer acupuncture when trained staff are available but further studies are needed on ways to improve pain management overall in emergency departments, and the potential role for acupuncture in this. We need to determine the conditions that are most responsive to acupuncture, the feasibility of including the treatment in emergency settings, and the training needed fore doctors or allied health personel.”