Journal scan

Trial results make case for using acupuncture in pain relief

Acupuncture could be poised to make a comeback as a mainstream treatment in acute care.


A randomised trial of 300 emergency department (ED) patients’ responses to titrated morphine or a half-hour acupuncture session was carried out.

Pain levels were graded on a scale of 10 (maximum imaginable pain) to 0 (no pain at all).

Patients were divided into two test groups, with pain-reduction time and any side effects gauged.


The results showed that 92% of the acupuncture group reported significant pain reduction, compared to 78% of the morphine group.

More dramatic were the ‘minor adverse effects’ experienced by 56.6% of the morphine group compared to those in 2.6% of the acupuncture group.

‘In patients with acute pain presenting to the ED, acupuncture was associated with more effective and faster analgesia with better tolerance.’

This was the conclusion of lead author Dr Mohamed Grissa of the University of Monastir, Tunisia.

Use of acupuncture

Use of non-pharmacologic pain-relief techniques has been steadily increasing worldwide since the 1950s.

It was introduced into the Tunisian health system in the 1990s.

The World Health Organization regards acupuncture as a safe, sound therapy for many conditions.

However, until now, it has hesitated about wholeheartedly endorsing it in EDs.

Grissa MH, Baccouche H, Boubaker H et al (2016) Acupuncture vs intravenous morphine in the management of acute pain in the ED. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2016.07.028.

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