Acupuncture for Pain

Acupuncture for pain. Pain is our body’s alarm signal, so its cause should always be investigated. It can vary in nature from the dull ache of an arthritic hip, to the almost intolerable electric shocks of trigeminal neuralgia. Tolerance varies between individuals, but is lower if we are tired, stressed or without other distractions. Some forms are responsive to simple painkillers, whilst others demand stronger, prescription-only drugs, the side-effects of which can be troublesome.

Whatever the pain, acupuncture is a gentle and safe treatment approach. It may also help with any consequences of your pain such as disturbed sleep, depression or loss of appetite.

Below you will find a wide range of research into acupuncture for pain. The studies cover chronic pain from a variety of causes, plus pain relief in hospital A&E, ICU and post-operative settings. There is also trigeminal neuralgia, phantom limb pain, studies with military veterans, and a look at how acupuncture could be part of the solution to dependence on opioid drugs. Pain from shingles, multiple sclerosis and cancer are covered, as is dental pain. Note that some specific types of pain eg neck or back pain, come under their own headings elsewhere.

Acupuncture helps Trigeminal Neuralgia

Acupuncture helps trigeminal neuralgia, and appears a more effective, safer and cheaper option compared with either drugs or surgery, according to research by the School of Medical Sciences, Bangor University. They surveyed 17 studies comparing the drug carbamazepine, with microvascular decompression surgery, and with acupuncture.

Acupuncture had the highest efficacy at 86%, compared with 79% for medication and 72% for surgery. It also had the lowest side-effect rate at 23%, compared with 25% for surgery and 89% for medication. The medication cost twice as much as acupuncture, and surgery cost more than six times as much. Patients also rated acupuncture the least stressful option.

(Acupuncture in the management of trigeminal neuralgia. Acupuncture in Medicine, 10 June 2020.)

Acupuncture for Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy

Acupuncture in Exeter: acupuncture for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. An American team, part funded by the US Government’s National Institutes of Health, has shown that acupuncture for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, offers significant improvements over usual care. The pilot randomised trial recruited 75 patients who had received at least three months of chemotherapy. They compared eight weeks of acupuncture, with both sham acupuncture and usual care. Compared with usual care, real acupuncture had the greatest effect on pain, tingling and numbness.

From baseline to week 8, the mean pain reduction in the real acupuncture group was -1.75, that for sham acupuncture was -0.91, and that for usual care was -0.19. At 12 week follow-up, real acupuncture maintained virtually all of its improvement, whilst sham had dropped back to -0.34.

(Effect of Acupuncture vs Sham Procedure on Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, 11 March 2020.)

Acupuncture helps Pain in US Urban Primary Care

acupuncture helps pain
New York: Acupuncture helps pain

A randomised trial in the US has shown that for both individual and group sessions given in primary care settings, acupuncture helps pain and improves physical function in patients with chronic musculoskeletal conditions. Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine enrolled 779 adults, mean age 55, attending six inner city primary care centres in the New York Bronx district for neck, back or osteoarthritis pain. Participants received weekly individualised acupuncture on either a group or one-to-one basis, for 12 weeks, in addition to usual care.

At the outset, 60% of participants reported poor to fair health, whilst 37% were unable to work due to disability. In the Bronx, nearly one third of the population lives below the poverty line.

After 12 weeks, 37% of patients in the individual treatment arm, and 30% of those in the group treatment arm, had a greater than 30% improvement in pain interference. Pain severity showed clinically meaningful improvements in over 30% of patients, and global physical health improved in approximately 60% of patients. Opiate use declined in the individual arm, but not in the group arm.

The research team concluded that their results demonstrate that individual and group acupuncture can be offered safely in the community health centre setting, that acceptability to patients and clinicians is very high, and that a substantial proportion of patients with chronic pain will have clinically significant improvement in both pain and overall physical health. Acupuncture therapy should be offered as part of pain care to underserved populations in the primary care setting. 

(Individual vs. Group Delivery of Acupuncture Therapy for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain in Urban Primary Care – a Randomized Trial. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 19 February 2020.)

Acupuncture helps Cancer Pain & Reduces Medication Use

Acupuncture in Exeter: acupuncture helps cancer pain.

Acupuncture helps cancer pain quickly and reduces the use of analgesics, according to researchers. A total of 160 patients were randomly assigned to one of four groups: conventional opioid painkillers only; opioids plus wrist-ankle acupuncture; opioids plus ear acupuncture; opioids plus wrist-ankle and ear acupuncture.

The analgesic effect reported in the group receiving opioids only, was significantly lower than that reported in the three acupuncture groups. The most effective analgesic effect was found in the group receiving wrist-ankle plus ear acupuncture: 45% of patients in this group reported pain within a tolerable range and felt no need for medication.

(Effect of wrist-ankle acupuncture therapy combined with auricular acupuncture on cancer pain: A four-parallel arm randomized controlled trial. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, May 2020.)