Pain is common among patients hospitalized in surgical departments, yet often it is not sufficiently controlled by painkillers. Can adding acupuncture to usual medical care impact pain management after surgery? Is acupuncture a safe treatment in the hospital setting? A preliminary study was performed to find answers to these questions.
By Ilana Levy
Integration of both complementary medicine (e.g. acupuncture) and conventional medicine (e.g. painkillers) is called integrative medicine and is said to have synergistic properties, meaning its effect is “greater than the sum” of complementary plus the individual effects of conventional medicine.
In order to assess the feasibility of a clinical trial that will test this theory in the context of pain reduction after surgery, a preliminary study was performed. The aim of the study, which was published in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Health was to investigate if acupuncture may bring additional pain-reducing effects after surgery when added to usual medical care, and whether or not it is safe.
Patients hospitalized in the general surgical ward of a medical centre in Israel after undergoing surgical procedures, were assigned to either one of the following groups: acupuncture on top of usual medical care for pain reduction (integrative group) or usual medical care only (conventional group).
The pain severity level at rest and in motion were evaluated by patients, both at recruitment and two hours after treatment. Acupuncture-related complications were assessed as well. Among the 425 patients that were recruited in this study, 336 were assigned to the integrative group and 89 to the conventional group.
After undergoing acupuncture, the integrative group exhibited a decrease of at least 40% in average pain severity both at rest and in motion following acupuncture, whereas the conventional group exhibited no significant decrease. This effect was even more prominent in patients reporting moderate to severe pain at baseline. No major complications were associated with acupuncture.
The Israeli researchers concluded that “integrating acupuncture is more effective than conventional medicine in reducing pain after surgery, and it is safe. The concept of integrative medicine should be further explored in hospital care. In the new era of hospital-based integrative medicine, this recent study is pivotal in the context of pain management after surgery. Indeed, modern post-surgical pain management should now combine both acupuncture and conventional care.”
Read the original article here.
Ilana Levy, Samuel Attias, Lior Cohen, Nadav Stoppelmann, Dan Steinberger, Ofra Grimberg, Eran Ben-Arye, Ibrahim Matter, Gideon Sroka, Mostafa Somri, Elad Schiff: Postoperative analgesia by adding acupuncture to conventional therapy, a non-randomized controlled trial, 12.10.2018.