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J Complement Integr Med. 2018 Oct 12. pii: /j/jcim.ahead-of-print/jcim-2018-0028/jcim-2018-0028.xml. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2018-0028. [Epub ahead of print]

Postoperative analgesia by adding acupuncture to conventional therapy, a non-randomized controlled trial.

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Internal Medicine Department B, Bnai Zion Medical Center, Haifa, Israel.
Complementary Medicine Department, Bnai Zion Medical Center, Haifa, Israel.
School of Public Health, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.
Ruth Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel.
General Surgery Department, Bnai Zion Medical Center, Haifa, Israel.
Integrative Oncology Program, Oncology Service, Lin Medical Center, Clalit Health Services, Haifa and Western Galilee District, Israel.
Anesthesiology Department, Bnai Zion Medical Center, Haifa, Israel.


Background 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. Methods 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. Results 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. Conclusion Integrating acupuncture with standard care may improve pain control in the postoperative setting.


acupuncture; complementary and alternative medicine; integrative medicine; postoperative pain


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