A randomised controlled trial conducted in Italy, has found that acupuncture is as good as standard drug treatment for helping the pain of acute herpes zoster (shingles).
A total of 102 patients were randomised to receive either acupuncture or standard drug treatment (comprising as many as several drugs, as required), for four weeks. The acupuncture was administered twice per week. Both treatments were judged to be effective with no significant differences between the two groups as measured by response rates and pain scores. The authors conclude that given the reduced likelihood of cumulative drug toxicity in patients receiving acupuncture, this option is promising for future treatment of acute shingles pain.
(Acupuncture for the Treatment of Severe Acute Pain in Herpes Zoster: Results of a Nested, Open-label, Randomised Trial in the VZV Pain Study. BMC Complementary & Altern Medicine, June 2011.)
American researchers have evaluated the usefulness of acupuncture for postoperative pain. They conducted a systematic review of the evidence, including fifteen randomised controlled trials of acupuncture versus a sham control, and found that at 8 hours and 72 hours after surgery, the acupuncture groups were using significantly less opioid painkillers (eg. codeine and morphine). Furthermore, acupuncture treatment was associated with fewer opioid-related side-effects, such as nausea, sedation, dizziness, itching and urinary retention.
The authors conclude that their review suggests the perioperative administration of acupuncture may be a useful adjunct for postoperative analgesia. Further large, well-designed studies are required to confirm those findings and to answer questions regarding the most efficacious type of acupuncture and optimal timing of administration.
(Acupuncture and Related Techniques for Postoperative Pain: A Systematic Review of Randomised Controlled Trials. British Journal of Anaesthesia, August 2008.)
An audit of acupuncture for pain across almost 6000 patients who received the treatment at a specialist pain clinic in Spain over a nine year period, revealed an average success rate of 79.7%. For the audit, “success” was defined as an improvement of at least 50% in five factors: pain intensity, pain frequency, consumption of painkillers, level of incapacity, and sleep disturbance. The highest success rate (93%) was achieved in patients with headaches. The authors conclude acupuncture is effective, carries with it no severe adverse events, and considerably reduces the consumption of analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs.
(Effectiveness of acupuncture and related techniques in treating non-oncological pain in primary healthcare-an audit. Acupuncture in Medicine, June 2007.)