(NaturalNews) Acupuncture may reduce the pain experienced by patients after surgery, and decrease their need for pain-killing drugs, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina and presented at an American Society for Anesthesiology conference in San Francisco.
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine in which thin needles are inserted into certain key (predetermined) points in the body. There is evidence of the practice existing in China anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 years ago.
"The use of acupuncture is still very under-appreciated," said Dr. Tong-Joo Gan, vice chairman of Duke's anesthesiology department. "Western doctors are typically not trained [in acupuncture], and they really are not familiar with how it works. I think practitioners such as surgeons and anesthesiologists need to have an open mind."
Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 15 different clinical trials in which patients had received acupuncture treatment either before or after an operation. The analysis showed that regardless of whether acupuncture was done before or after the surgery, such patients experienced significantly less pain after their operation than patients who had not had acupuncture. These same patients also used less pain medication, and as a result they suffered fewer negative side effects, such as nausea and vomiting.
Patients who had not received acupuncture were 1.5 times more likely to experience drug-related nausea, 1.6 times more likely to experience drug-related dizziness and 3.5 times more likely to experience drug-related urinary retention problems.
According to the National Institutes of Health, studies have also shown acupuncture to reduce the nausea caused by chemotherapy.
Gan believes that acupuncture should become a common part of surgery. "I do it all the time," he said. "You give patients the acupuncture about half an hour before surgery and continue during surgery. It can reduce post-operative pain."