Postoperative pain is common in patients hospitalized in surgical departments, yet it is currently not sufficiently controlled by analgesics. Acupuncture, a complementary medical practice, has been evaluated for its benefits in postoperative pain with heterogeneous results. We tested the feasibility of a controlled study comparing the postoperative analgesic effect of acupuncture together with standard-of-care to standard-of-care only.
In this pilot non-randomized controlled study conducted at a tertiary medical center in Israel, patients received either acupuncture with standard-of-care pain treatment (acupuncture group) or standard-of-care treatment only (control group) following surgery. Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) ratings for pain level at rest and in motion were evaluated both at recruitment and two hours after treatment. Acupuncture-related side effects were reported as well.
We recruited 425 patients; 336 were assigned to the acupuncture group and 89 to the control group. The acupuncture group exhibited a decrease of at least 40% in average level of pain both at rest (1.8±2.4, p<0.0001) and in motion (2.1±2.8, p<0.0001) following acupuncture, whereas the control group exhibited no significant decrease (p=0.92 at rest, p=0.98 in motion). Acupuncture's analgesic effect was even more prominent in reducing moderate to severe pain at baseline (VAS ≥4), with a decrease of 49% and 45% of pain level at rest and in motion respectively (p<0.001), compared with no significant amelioration in the control group (p=0.20 at rest, p=0.12 in motion). No major side effects were reported.
Integrating acupuncture with standard care may improve pain control in the postoperative setting.
We are grateful to Ms Ronit Leiba for the statistical processing, Ms Ilana Merhav and Ms Tanya Kligerman for their assistance in the literature search and Ms Donna Bossin for the linguistic editing.
Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.
Research funding: None declared.
Employment or leadership: None declared.
Honorarium: None declared.
Competing interests: The funding organization(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.
Disclosure: The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest regarding the publication of this paper.
Trial registration number: NCT01733771 (clinicaltrials.gov).
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