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Acupuncture could be useful in treating pain in emergency room patients

Alternative medicine is something we learned not to trust through the years. People who practice it are often self-taught, which is not trust-inspiring to say the least. And some therapies seem to have no scientific basis whatsoever. Now a new study led by RMIT University gave us some hope in alternative medicine – this new research revealed that acupuncture is as effective as pain medicine in some cases.

Acupuncture could potentially provide relief from pain in situations when conventional therapies and drugs cannot be used. Image credit: Official Navy Page via Wikimedia

The most common reason for people to come to emergency rooms in hospitals is strong pain. However, it is difficult to manage strong pain effectively to give patients some relief. Scientists knew for quite some time about this problem and wanted to see if some alternative methods could offer a solution. Acupuncture is widely used in community settings, but almost never in hospitals – again, because of the stigma attached to this therapy. Also, medical personnel do not really know if it is an effective option and that’s why this research has been done.

Researchers showed that acupuncture is actually a pretty good alternative, especially useful in cases when patients cannot take the usual drugs due to other medications they are using. Use of opioids is restricted because of fear of developing addiction, while some other medications cannot be used  because of patient’s condition or some other reasons. However, before acupuncture is regarded as a medically viable option some more research needs to be done.

This study involved 528 patients with acute low back pain, migraine or ankle sprains. Just after one hour of treatment 40 % of them felt pain reduction. 48 hours later 82.8 % of acupuncture-only patients saying they would probably or definitely repeat their treatment. Professor Marc Cohen, lead investigator of the study, said: “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”.

So this research will have to continue. Scientists will attempt determining what conditions can be treated with acupuncture, how this procedure can be included in current emergency room settings, and how much training would be needed for doctors and assisting staff. However, knowing that doctors will have a new weapon against strong pain is good news – the more options to deliver relief quickly, the better.

 

Source: RMIT University

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