Using Acupuncture to manage pain

There are a number of alternative methods available that have shown favourable results and which patients and carers can explore in their quest to minimise intractable pain. Recent statistics about acupuncture use estimate that in England each year, one million treatments are given, and two million in the private sector. Of the many non-drug treatments available for pain, acupuncture receives the most positive reports in relation to effectiveness and long-term management. Claims regarding its benefits in tackling a number of other problems such as smoking, obesity, depression, drug addiction and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have come under scrutiny. Many supporters and advocates of acupuncture including many doctors, some of whom also practise it, strongly oppose any move to curtail its use within mainstream medicine.

Acupuncture is believed to work by stimulating the nerves in the skin and the muscles in the region of the acupoints. Some patients who experience chronic pain derive great benefit from acupuncture than from conventional drug-based painkillers such as anti-inflammatories and analgesics. Acupuncture may also work by deactivating part of the pain matrix in the limbic system of the brain associated with the perception of pain. Acupuncture is most often used in the NHS as a second or third line treatment for chronic pain. Current levels of evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are probably sufficient to justify this practice. However, there is insufficient evidence to warrant first line treatment in chronic pain. Acupuncture is also effective for post-operative nausea and vomiting, chemotherapy-related nausea adn vomiting, and for post-operative dental pain.

Read the full article here: Acupuncture to Manage Pain

Primary Health Care 2007; 17(7): 25-29rcnpublishing

Primary Health Care journal is a Royal College of Nursing (RCN) publication