Newswise — An analysis of several large research studies found that acupuncture, a traditional form of Chinese medicine, effectively eases postoperative pain without serious side effects.

Currently up to 80 percent of patients experience pain after surgery, with about 86 percent of these patients reporting moderate, severe or extreme discomfort. Thus, postoperative pain management remains a significant challenge for health care providers.

In China and countries throughout the world, acupuncture " which typically involves using thin needles at very specific points on the skin " is widely used to treat pain and other conditions. Pain, according to Chinese traditional medical theory, represents the blockage of "Qi" (the body's vital energy, pronounced "key" ) and "blood." Acupuncture normalizes the free flow of "Qi," blood and body fluid to treat pain and other illnesses.

Researchers in anesthesiology at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, reviewed 15 research studies pertaining to the effectiveness of acupuncture and related techniques to relieve postoperative pain when used in conjunction with pain medication. The data analysis of some 1,166 patients revealed a significant decrease in pain among the patients receiving acupuncture. In addition, the acupuncture patients required less morphine and other opioid pain medication, and thus reported fewer medication-related side effects, including nausea, dizziness and drowsiness.

Acupuncture-related side effects are rare.

"An integrative approach combining opioids (pain medication) with various complementary techniques has been recommended for postoperative pain control," said study author Yanxia Sun, M.D., research associate in the department of anesthesiology, Duke University Medical Center.

"From this review, we found that acupuncture is an effective adjunct treatment for postoperative pain, which provides another choice for the regimen of postoperative pain management in clinical practice," Dr. Sun said.

Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists is an educational, research and scientific association with 41,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology and improve the care of the patient. Visit our Web site at

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American Society of Anesthesiologists 2007 Annual Meeting