To those of us ignorant about acupuncture, who would have thought that sticking needles in your body could relieve pain? But, new research shows that using acupuncture before and during an operation can cut a patient’s need for more traditional painkillers.
“From a pain perspective, you can reduce the amount of morphine that the patient uses and improve the quality of analgesia and pain control,” said lead researcher Dr. Tong J. Gan, a professor and vice chairman of anesthesiology at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, N.C.
Morphine is a potent painkiller used in hospitals. But it can often produce side effects. In the new study, Dr. Gan and his team analyzed data from 15 clinical trials looking at the use of acupuncture to reduce postoperative pain. They found that adjunctive acupuncture could reduce post-op itchiness by 30 percent, nausea by 50 percent, and dizziness by 60 percent. About eight out of 10 patients will experience those side effects from postoperative morphine, Gan said.
The studies Gan reviewed used Chinese acupuncture, but he said that similar effects would occur with other styles and whether needles, electrical or manual acupuncture was used. Adjunctive acupuncture is “not widely used because people need to be educated,” Gan said.