A new study has found that using acupuncture before and during surgery significantly reduces the level of pain and level of painkillers needed by patients following surgery.
According to anesthesiologists at Duke University Medical Center the amount of powerful pain killers needed for patients who received acupuncture was much lower than those who did not have acupuncture.
This is important for the patient because it means the side effects associated with opioids such as nausea, vomiting and severe itching are considerably reduced.
The specialists who combined the data from 15 small randomized acupuncture clinical trials say such side effects can negatively impact on a patient’s recovery from surgery and lengthen the time they spend in hospital.
Dr. Tong Joo Gan, who presented the results of the analysis at the annual scientific conference of the American Society for Anesthesiology in San Francisco, says based on the results of the analysis, acupuncture should be considered a viable option for pain control in surgery patients.
He says those who received acupuncture had a significantly lower risk of developing most common side effects associated with opioid drugs.
Gan says opioids belong to a class of medications that affect the body as morphine does and though they are effective in controlling pain, the side effects of the drugs often influence a patient’s recovery from, and satisfaction with, their surgery.
Dr. Gan says the results of the study add to a growing body of evidence that acupuncture can play an effective role in improving the quality of the surgical experience.
Numerous other studies, some conducted by Gan, have shown 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.
Gan believes that acupuncture is slowly becoming more accepted by American physicians, but is still underutilized, and the study may encourage more doctors to include acupuncture in their routine care of surgery patients.
Gan says acupuncture, when done by properly trained personnel, has the added benefits of being inexpensive, with virtually no side effects.
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.
Gan says the Chinese believe that our vital energy, known as chi, flows throughout the body along these meridians and 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.
How acupuncture works is unclear but recent research seems to point to its ability to stimulate the release of hormones or the body’s own painkillers, known as endorphins.
Dr. Gan is now conducting studies to determine the exact mechanism behind acupuncture’s effects.
The National Institutes of Health says that acupuncture has also been shown to reduce nausea after chemotherapy and surgery.