Acupuncture for Acute Pain

Although acute pain is often considered much easier to manage than chronic pain, it can still often be challenging. Opioids have been long been one of the mainstays for treating acute pain, but apparent widespread over prescribing has been a major contributing factor to the US opioid epidemic. Response to the epidemic has included guidelines recommending, and laws limiting, the prescription of opioids for acute pain. In addition to the documented concerns about opioid use, a recent study raised the issue of whether a major alternative to opioids for acute pain, the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may increase the risk for the progression of acute pain to chronic pain, a potential result of the drugs’ suppression of the inflammatory response.1

There is a clear need for other effective treatments for acute pain that do not carry the risks associated with opioids and possibly with NSAIDs.The efficacy of acupuncture for a number of common chronic pain conditions has been well documented, but its use for the management of acute pain has received less attention. A recent review of the literature on acupuncture for management of acute pain sought to determine whether there is evidence for its efficacy.2 The review examined systematic reviews and meta-analyses on perioperative pain and acute nonsurgical/trauma pain including acute pain in the emergency department (ED). Below, find key takeaways for primary care clinicians.