Acupuncture, Pain, Public Health

Acupuncture instead of pain killers? For sure!

Recent developments in the opioid crisis have led to supplies of the popular opioid based pain killer, Codeine, being largely unavailable, at least over the counter. Prescriptions by doctors are now made with caution following news that codeine related deaths increased dramatically between 2000-2010.  Codeine seems to have been singled out but opioids cover a range of different substances and brand names.


Opioids: Addictive, with side effects

Opioids are heavily addictive substances and are chemically derived from and/or chemically similar to a natural substance found in the Opium Poppy.  There are many different varieties of opioids which have been prescribed freely over the last few decades by GP’s for pain relief, but addiction rates are high and side effects include depression, weight gain, constipation, nausea and vomiting, among other debilitating issues.  When you’re in pain, the last thing you need is for additional side effects to cause further problems for you.  So there must be another way, right?

Acupuncture & Pain Relief

In 2017, a literature review examining evidence for acupuncture was performed. In that review, nine conditions, including relief for pain in specific areas, were identified as having sufficient high quality evidence to suggest that they are effective, from a modern, evidence-based standpoint.  The review itself has been deemed inadmissable for referencing purposes however the reviews and studies within the review are all valid scientific evidence supporting acupuncture, and the quality of evidence is tabled within the review itself.

Australian Hospital-based Study

In 2017 researchers at RMIT, led by Dr Marc Cohen, conducted a large cohort, multi-centre randomised controlled trial on acupuncture for chronic pain treatment in hospital emergency wards throughout Melbourne. This high quality research explains that  “15.6% of patients had clinically relevant pain relief and 36.9% had statistically relevant pain relief.” (Cohen, et al, 2017).  They concluded that acupuncture was as effective as pharmaceutical medicines in treatment of pain conditions.  Pubmed, which is the publication tool used by researchers globally, lists 1552 studies listed from January 1, 2019 to the current date.  Gauging by developments in the understanding of research methods for acupuncture, research volume and quality in future will be significantly higher as projects continue to investigate our medicine and its diverse practical use.

Acupuncture as an option, or solution

In 2017 a white paper was produced providing a detailed and in-depth exploration of how acupuncture could contribute to a possible solution to the opioid crisis.  Given recent research developments, acupuncture has been discovered to be a viable, drug-free option for pain relief.  The White Paper can be found by clicking this link.

Acceptance into conventional medicine

The Australian federal government via the Therapeutic Goods Administration now recommends acupuncture, among other manual therapies,  for pain relief, in place of currently scheduled opioid drugs.   Acupuncturists should all be registered as Allied Health professionals under our own professional Board, the Chinese Medicine Board of Victoria (CMBA), with codes & guidelines regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).  We follow National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC)guidelines for infection control and skin penetration. We are gradually being accepted into the medical world, mostly with enthusiasm as research grows.

All of this is leading some conventional doctors to rethink their attitude about acupuncture.  This opinion piece, written by a doctor in Canada about his experiences using acupuncture for the first time (as a patient), shows an educated level of insight about the therapy, its potential drawbacks and the reality of what it’s like to recieve a treatment.

Try it for yourself and see

If you would like a drug-free pain relief experience using a modernised version of an ancient therapy that values your individuality, please head over to our bookings page and find yourself a time at the Daylesford clinic.


Reference List

Benyamin, R., et al. (2008). “Opioid complications and side effects.” Pain Physician 11(2 Suppl): S105-120.

Cohen, M. M., Smit, D. V., Andrianopoulos, N., Ben‐Meir, M., Taylor, D. M., Parker, S. J., … & Cameron, P. A. (2017). Acupuncture for analgesia in the emergency department: a multicentre, randomised, equivalence and non‐inferiority trial. Medical Journal of Australia206(11), 494-499.

Dart, R. C., et al. (2015). “Trends in Opioid Analgesic Abuse and Mortality in the United States.” New England Journal of Medicine 372(3): 241-248.

Fan, A. Y., Miller, D. W., Bolash, B., Bauer, M., McDonald, J., Faggert, S., … & Koppelman, M. H. (2017). Acupuncture’s role in solving the opioid epidemic: evidence, cost-effectiveness, and care availability for acupuncture as a primary, non-pharmacologic method for pain relief and management–white paper 2017. Journal of integrative medicine15(6), 411-425.



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