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The therapy is not new though. In fact, it was accepted as a complement to western medicine, in 1997, by the National Institute of Health. Since then a long list of purported health benefits has been linked to this ancient Chinese medicinal practice.
A study by Australian researchers has found acupuncture is just as effective for pain relief as analgesic drugs. Emergency physicians at The Alfred, Northern, Cabrini and Epworth hospitals partnered with RMIT’s school of health sciences.
They wanted to see if this ancient therapy could relieve acute pain in hundreds of patients with either lower-back pain, sprained ankles or migraines.
”Acupuncture was equivalent to what we defined as conventional medicine standard care, which was strong oral analgesia, such as Endone, Panadeine Forte, Voltaren and Valium,” says Dr Michael Ben-Meir, director of Cabrini Hospital’s emergency department.
He continues; “The randomised controlled study of about 550 patients also found that the combination of acupuncture with standard pharmaceutical care delivered equivalent pain relief to acupuncture alone or standard care alone.”
“It is particularly good for people who do not want drugs, such as pregnant women, and for those whose pain is not relieved by Western medicine,” he explains.
”I find that it doesn’t always help all patients, but occasionally it’s the thing that really shifts them and gets them home and gets their symptoms resolved,” he says.
”It has an effect, there’s no doubt about that. It’s just, when do you use it? How often? Which points? And who delivers it? There’s a lot to be thought about and analysed before something like this is a standard therapy.”
Dr Ben-Meir continues; “Although the exact mechanisms of acupuncture remained unclear, this was also the case for some Western medicines.”
“Rising health costs should encourage more scientific assessment of low-risk complementary medicines because new drugs were expensive to develop and could cause side effects,” he explains.