Acupuncture reduces pain, need for opioids after surgery

October 16, 2007

DURHAM, N.C. - Using acupuncture before and during surgery significantly reduces the level of pain and the amount of potent painkillers needed by patients after the surgery is over, according to Duke University Medical Center anesthesiologists who combined data from 15 small randomized acupuncture clinical trials.

"While the amount of opioids needed for patients who received acupuncture was much lower than those who did not have acupuncture, the most important outcome for the patient is the reduction of the side effects associated with opioids," said Tong Joo (T.J.) Gan, M.D., a Duke anesthesiologist who presented the results of the analysis at the annual scientific conference of the American Society for Anesthesiology in San Francisco. "These side effects can negatively impact a patient's recovery from surgery and lengthen the time spent in the hospital."

Based on the results of this analysis, Gan recommends that acupuncture should be considered a viable option for pain control in surgery patients.

Patients who received acupuncture had significantly lower risk of developing most common side effects associated with opioid drugs compared with control: 1.5 times lower rates of nausea, 1.3 times fewer incidences of severe itching, 1.6 times fewer reports of dizziness and 3.5 times fewer cases of urinary retention.

Opioids are a class of medications that act on the body much like morphine. While they are effective in controlling pain, the side effects of the drugs often influence a patient's recovery from, and satisfaction with, their surgery, Gan said.

The results of this study add to the growing body of evidence that acupuncture can play an effective role in improving the quality of the surgical experience, Gan added. Numerous studies, some conducted by Gan, have demonstrated that acupuncture can also be more effective than current medications in lessening the occurrence of post operative nausea and vomiting, the most common side effect experienced by patients after surgery.

"Acupuncture is slowly becoming more accepted by American physicians, but it is still underutilized," Gan said. "Studies like this, which show that there is a benefit to using it, should help give physicians sitting on the fence the data they need to integrate acupuncture into their routine care of surgery patients."

Acupuncture has the added benefits of being inexpensive, with virtually no side effects, when done by properly trained personnel, Gan added.

The Chinese have been using acupuncture for more than 5,000 years for the treatment of a variety of ailments, including headaches, gastrointestinal disorders and arthritis. According to Chinese healing practices, there are about 360 specific points along 14 different lines, or meridians, that course throughout the body just under the skin.

"The Chinese believe that our vital energy, known as chi, flows throughout the body along these meridians," Gan explained. "While healthiness is a state where the chi is in balance, unhealthiness or disease state arises from either too much or too little chi, or a blockage in the flow of the chi."

Different bodily locations or organs have their own distinct acupuncture points that are the targets for the acupuncturist. For example, a point just below the wrist is the common target for women undergoing breast procedures to prevent nausea and vomiting, another point at the back of the hand is effective in reducing pain.

While it is not completely known why or how acupuncture works, recent research seems to point to its ability to stimulate the release of hormones or the body's own painkillers, known as endorphins, Gan said. He is now conducting studies to determine the exact mechanism behind acupuncture's effects.
-end-
Other members of the research team included Yanxia Sun, John Dubose and Ashraf Habib. The meta-analysis was supported by Duke's Department of Anesthesiology.

Duke University Medical Center

Related Acupuncture Articles from Brightsurf:

Nonverbal doctor-patient rapport relieved pain during acupuncture treatment
When 22 acupuncture clinicians and 23 patients seeking pain relief mirrored each other's facial expressions during acupuncture treatment, patients experienced less pain, according to a new study.

Acupuncture before surgery means less pain, significantly fewer opioids for Veterans
Veterans who have acupuncture before surgery report less pain and need far fewer opioids to manage their discomfort, according to a randomized, controlled study being presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2020 annual meeting.

Acupuncture can reduce migraine headaches
Acupuncture can reduce migraine headaches compared to both sham (placebo) acupuncture and usual care, finds a new trial from China published by The BMJ today.

Acupuncture equals disease prevention say new studies
Well-recognized for its therapeutic effects, acupuncture is increasingly being appreciated for its ability to promote wellness and contribute to the prevention of a broad range of conditions.

Acupuncture may ease troublesome menopausal symptoms
A brief course of acupuncture may help to ease troublesome menopausal symptoms, suggests a small study published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Number of veterans affairs facilities offering acupuncture growing rapidly
Acupuncture is an increasingly important and effective component of chronic pain management and other areas of care in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

Fertility study finds acupuncture ineffective for IVF birth rates
A study of over 800 Australian and New Zealand women undergoing acupuncture treatment during their IVF (in vitro fertilization) cycle has confirmed no significant difference in live birth rates.

Acupuncture possible treatment for dental anxiety
Researchers have found evidence that acupuncture could help people who experience dental anxiety.

Harvard scientists ask 'what is the point?' in challenge to acupuncture researchers
The effectiveness of acupuncture compared to standard treatments has led to its growing inclusion in pain guidelines and in delivery organizations like the US military and Veterans Administration, yet many continue to believe acupuncture lacks scientific credibility.

Can acupuncture help alleviate menopausal symptoms?
An umbrella review from Duke Clinical Research Institute that was a comprehensive assessment of previous systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials has found that women who received acupuncture had less frequent and less severe vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause than women who did not have acupuncture.

Read More: Acupuncture News and Acupuncture Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.