Evidence from the Largest Randomised Study (Australian)
In a multicentre study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, researchers found that acupuncture is an effective and safe treatment for migraines, ankle pain and back pain. The authors, led by professor Marc Cohen concluded that “The effectiveness of acupuncture in providing acute analgesia for patients with back pain and ankle sprain was comparable with that of pharmacotherapy.” This article aims to elaborate on the findings of this study and highlight the efficacy of acupuncture as a remedy for pain.
Background of the Study
Acupuncture is a practice in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that has been used for generations. Different cultures have used acupuncture as an alternative treatment to remedy multiple health conditions, including pain relief.
The test of time and personal testimonies support the efficacy of acupuncture. In fact, acupuncture is recognised in the Therapeutic Guidelines for Australian doctors, and the Australian government’s Medicare Benefits Schedule. But what about science? Are there reliable and unbiased scientific studies that support the practice of acupuncture as an analgesic? This was the objective of the Australian study by Cohen et al. (2017).
The federally-funded “multicentre, randomised, equivalence and non-inferiority trial” sought to determine whether acupuncture was equivalent to conventional pain treatments. The study sample included 528 patients with an ankle sprain (166), migraine (92), and acute low back pain (270). The respondents were distributed among four major hospitals in Melbourne, Australia. The study criteria included patients with a pain score greater than 4. The patients received:
- Acupuncture alone (177)
- Acupuncture and conventional painkillers (178)
- Standard painkillers alone (173)
To enhance the credibility of the study the researcher did not know which treatments the patients were receiving (single-blinded study). After analysing the outcome of the study, the researcher found out that over 80% of the respondents felt relief – regardless of the treatment. The findings proved that acupuncture was equivalent to pharmacotherapy in managing pain.
Other Studies on Acupuncture for Pain Relief
- A meta-analysis appearing in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine concluded that “acupuncture was associated with a greater immediate pain relief effect compared to sham acupuncture and analgesic injections.”
- “Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is, therefore, a reasonable referral option.” This was the recommendation of a study by Vickers et al. (2012) based on a systematic review of over 17,000 patients.
- In another systematic review, the researcher analyzed 39 trials, totaling 20,827 patients. The study, which was published in the Journal of Pain found that acupuncture was an effective treatment for osteoarthritis pain, headache, and chronic musculoskeletal pain. The findings also showed that the pain relief effects of acupuncture treatment persist over time.
The Implications of the Studies
Based on the findings of the studies highlighted in this article, acupuncture is a viable option for pain relief. With the risk of adverse side effects and increased abuse of opioid analgesics, acupuncture is an important alternative treatment. So why not remedy your pain by targeting the root cause in an effective yet safe manner?
The pain clinic at Centre of Balance Hamilton provides professional acupuncture treatment to manage all kinds of pain. You can contact us directly or visit our clinic at 27F Whatawhata Road, Dinsdale, Hamilton 3204, New Zealand.
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Cohen, M. M., Smit, D. V., Andrianopoulos, N., Ben‐Meir, M., Taylor, D. M., Parker, S. J., … & Cameron, P. A. (2017). Acupuncture for analgesia in the emergency department: a multicentre, randomised, equivalence and non‐inferiority trial. Medical Journal of Australia, 206(11), 494-499.
Xiang, A., Cheng, K., Shen, X., Xu, P., & Liu, S. (2017). The immediate analgesic effect of acupuncture for pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2017.
Vickers, A. J., Cronin, A. M., Maschino, A. C., Lewith, G., MacPherson, H., Foster, N. E., … & Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration, F. T. (2012). Acupuncture for chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis. Archives of internal medicine, 172(19), 1444-1453.
Vickers, A. J., Vertosick, E. A., Lewith, G., MacPherson, H., Foster, N. E., Sherman, K. J., … & Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration. (2018). Acupuncture for chronic pain: update of an individual patient data meta-analysis. The Journal of Pain, 19(5), 455-474.