Traditional and Battlefield Acupuncture Provide Post-Op Pain Relief and Reduced Need for Opioids

PainRelief.com Interview with:

  • Brinda Krish, D.O., lead author of the study and an anesthesiology resident at Detroit Medical Center.
  • Padmavathi Patel, M.D., principal investigator of the study and Medical Director, Northstar Anesthesia at John D. Dingell Veteran Hospital.

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Dr. Padmavathi Patel: Pain is a major contributor to health care costs and a common cause of long-term disability (about  $61.2 billion/year) in lost productivity due to pain.

acupuncture

76.2 million Americans (one in four) have suffered from pain that lasts longer than 24 hours (2013).

Numerous literature such as:

1. “Use of prescription opioids in the treatment of pain has increased notably over recent decades.”

2. “Rates of death from prescribed opioids increased four fold between 2000 and 2014.”

3. “16,651 opioid related deaths in 2010.”

4. “The problem of opioid overuse and dependence is seen in the military as well as in civilian.”

-Opioid-related side effects could lead to a delay in recovery.
-Pain control is more challenging for military population.
-More extensive injuries and greater pain severity is seen in survivors of combat- related blast injuries compared to those of non-blast civilians and also they require larger opioid doses.
-Pain is a very common patient complaint, both in veteran and non-veteran populations.
-Among the 5.7 million unique patients seen annually with in the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), more than half of these patients experience chronic pain.

In 2017, The DVA and the United States Department of Defense (DoD) published an updated guidelines on opioid therapy for chronic pain that strongly recommends against initiation of long-term opioid use and recommends alternatives, including non-pharmacologic therapy, such as Acupuncture, which has been shown to be effective for treating a variety of painful conditions.

Acupuncture techniques have been in existence for centuries, with roots tied to Eastern Asia. Traditional acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles at specific trigger points around the body to relieve pain. Battlefield acupuncture (BFA), developed by a U.S. Air Force doctor uses needles that are inserted at various trigger points in the ear. In 2013, $5.4 million was awarded to the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to teach BFA to healthcare providers in both the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs and assess it.  In light of the opioid epidemic, there is a strong need to decrease perioperative opioid use. Opioid use due to postoperative pain along with perioperative anxiety has been linked to increased length of hospital stay, increased morbidity and mortality, and ultimately higher healthcare costs.

Battlefield acupuncture was introduced into Veterans Health Administration (VHA) in the last few years and in VHA, clinicians of various disciplines (MDs, DOs, PAs, nurse-practitioners), can currently obtain clinical privilege to provide it.

I received the Battlefield acupuncture training at John D. Dingell VA medical Center, Detroit and I was surprised with the outcomes of chronic pain patients. As an anesthesiologist I know pain after the surgery is common, often severe and largely unnecessary. I discussed these concerns with the surgeons and created the protocol to use BFA for general surgical patients and traditional acupuncture for hip replacement patients as an adjuvant to the standard protocol for acute post-surgical pain control.

Effective relief of postoperative pain is vital. Such pain probably prolongs hospital stay, as it can affect all the organ systems with side effects. Post op pain remains grossly under treated, with up to 70% of patients reporting moderate to severe pain following surgery.

Multimodal pain control not only can result in earlier discharge from hospital, but it may also reduce the onset of chronic pain syndromes.

2 studies performed TA (n=21), Controls given sham acupuncture (n=21).  BFA (n=28), Controls given sham acupuncture (n=36). Measured variables included post-operative opioid requirements, postoperative pain, the incidence of PONV, and patient satisfaction scores

Key conclusions use of Battlefield acupuncture and Traditional acupuncture reduced post-operative opioid requirements, post-operative pain scores (pain intensity) and increased patient satisfaction scores.  BFA also reduced PONV in patients.  

What is the Biological Basis of Acupuncture for Systemic Inflammation Modulation?

PainRelief.com Interview with:
QIUFU MA, PhD
Professor, Neurobiology, Cancer Biology
Harvard Medical School
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: This study aimed to understand the biological basis behind acupuncture practice. Modern randomized clinical trials have demonstrated the efficacy of acupuncture practice in treating certain human diseases, such as gastrointestinal disorders and chronic pain, but the underlying biological basis still poorly understood.

Our hypothesis is that acupuncture can drive the somatosensory autonomic pathways to modulate body physiology. A key innovation of this study is the development of new genetic tools to manipulate different autonomic nervous pathways, and we then used the severe systemic inflammation (cytokine storms) induced by bacterial endotoxins as the experimental model.

We found that electroacupuncture stimulation (ES) can drive distinct autonomic pathways in acupoint- and stimulation-intensity-dependent manners. Low intensity ES at hindlimb regions drives the vagal-adrenal axis, producing anti-inflammatory effects that depend on adrenal chromaffin cells. High intensity ES at the abdomen activates splenic noradrenergic neurons via the spinal-sympathetic axis, and this activation produces either anti- or pro-inflammatory effects, dependent on adrenergic receptor profiles under different diseases states

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ACP Recommends Non-Pharmacologic Treatments for Pain Relief From Acute Non–Low Back, Musculoskeletal Injuries

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Timothy Wilt, MD, MPH
Chair ACP Clinical Guidelines Committee
Professor of Medicine
Minneapolis VA Center for Care Delivery and Outcomes Research.

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Acute non-low back musculoskeletal pain is common, disabling and costly. Most are treated in outpatient settings. Numerous pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic treatment options exist but there is uncertainty of their benefits, harms and costs. Additionally, opioid prescriptions are common for acute musculoskeletal injuries but have harms and can lead to chronic opioid use including dependence and overdose. ACP and AAFP developed these evidence based guidelines to assist clinicians in providing the highest quality care to their patients by considering information on benefits, harms and costs alongside patient values and preferences. Our main recommendations are as follows:

1)      ACP and AAFP recommend that clinicians treat patients with acute pain from non–low back, musculoskeletal injuries with topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with or without menthol gel as first-line therapy to reduce or relieve symptoms, including pain; improve physical function; and improve the patient’s treatment satisfaction.

2)      ACP and AAFP suggest that clinicians treat patients with acute pain from non–low back, musculoskeletal injuries with oral NSAIDs to reduce or relieve symptoms, including pain, and to improve physical function, or with oral acetaminophen to reduce pain.

3)      ACP and AAFP suggest that clinicians treat patients with acute pain from non–low back, musculoskeletal injuries with specific acupressure to reduce pain and improve physical function, or with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation to reduce pain.

4)      ACP and AAFP suggest against clinicians treating patients with acute pain from non–low back, musculoskeletal injuries with opioids, including tramadol.

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Acupuncture for Migraine Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:

Prof. Wei Wang
Department of Neurology,
Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College,
Huazhong University of Science and Technology,
Wuhan, Hubei, P.R. China

acupuncture

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: The burden of migraine is substantial, resulting in considerable economic and social losses. The latest Global Burden of Disease Study showed that 1.25 billion people had migraine in 2017. A significant number of patients are still not responding well to drug therapy, or cannot tolerate the adverse effects of drugs, or have contraindications, which can lead to low medication compliance, headache chronification and acute medication overuse. Prophylactic drugs should be recommended for migraineurs who have at least four headache days per month, but only 13% of patients reported current use of preventive drugs. Besides, ineffectiveness of and/or contraindications to migraine medication affect 10-15% of people with migraine. Hence, a need exists to investigate non-drug interventions.

Previous studies suggest that acupuncture works particularly well on a range of pain disorders. However, clinical evidence for the benefit of manual acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis remains scarce. Appropriate placebo control settings and successful blinding are two critical elements in addressing this challenge. Sham acupuncture involving penetrating needles should be avoided in clinical trials. Previous acupuncture research has often used penetrating sham acupuncture, involving needling non-acupuncture points, needling irrelevant acupuncture points, or superficial needling. However, whether the needle is inserted into an acupuncture point or a non-acupuncture point, it could produce a physiological effect. Comparisons between true acupuncture and sham acupuncture might also be biased by unsuccessful blinding. To ensure an inert placebo control and successful blinding, we recruited acupuncture-naive patients, using non-penetrating sham acupuncture at heterosegmental non-acupuncture points as the control, and designed the same procedures to perform the same rituals as much as possible in the manual and sham acupuncture groups.

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Acupuncture for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain Relief: A Review of Randomized Trial

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Chenchen Wang MD, MSc
Professor of Medicine
Tufts University School of Medicine
 Director, Center For Complementary And Integrative Medicine                                             
Division of Rheumatology
Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA

Dr. Chenchen Wang
Dr. Chenchen Wang

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain is a complex disorder without effective treatment Acupuncture, originating in China more than 3,000 years ago, is one of the most popular sensory stimulation therapies. However, despite the fact that acupuncture is widely used for pain relief in a number of conditions including severe knee osteoarthritis, acute postoperative pain, musculoskeletal disorders, evidence of the effect of Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain relief is scarce.


Our study was to determine the efficacy of acupuncture for pain relief in this field.

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Acupuncture Provided Pain Relief From Cancer and Related Symptoms

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Jai N. Patel, PharmD, BCOP
Chief, Pharmacology Research
Associate Professor, Division of Hematology/Oncology
Department of Cancer Pharmacology
Levine Cancer Institute
Charlotte, NC 28204 

PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Pain is one of the most prevalent and burdensome symptoms affecting patients with cancer. Cancer-related pain is most commonly treated with opioid analgesics; however, nearly two-thirds of patients have inadequate pain relief and/or experience opioid-related side effects.

Furthermore, the fear of opioid abuse/addiction and toxicity deters some from prescribing opioids and reduces patient compliance. Thus, nonpharmacologic interventions such as acupuncture may be safer approaches to cancer-related pain.  Randomized controlled trials suggest acupuncture reduces chronic neuropathic and postoperative pain in patients with cancer. It is unknown whether any patient characteristics predict post-acupuncture pain response.

We assessed acupuncture’s effectiveness for cancer-related pain, identified patient characteristics associated with pain response, and determined its effect on other concurrent cancer-related symptoms in palliative medicine outpatients. We identified significant benefits in pain scores immediately after the first treatment and across multiple treatments. Significant pain reduction was associated with higher baseline pain and more advanced disease stage.

We also identified significant changes in anxiety, depression, drowsiness, dyspnea, fatigue, nausea and well-being. Improvements in fatigue and depression also correlated with significant pain reduction after acupuncture.  Continue reading