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Type: Journal article
Title: Effects of electroacupuncture on opioid consumption in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain: a multicenter randomized controlled trial
Author: Zheng, Z.
Gibson, S.
Helme, R.D.
Wang, Y.
Lu, D.S.-C.
Arnold, C.
Hogg, M.
Somogyi, A.A.
Da Costa, C.
Xue, C.C.L.
Citation: Pain Medicine, 2019; 20(2):397-410
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Issue Date: 2019
ISSN: 1526-2375
Statement of
Zhen Zheng, Stephen Gibson, Robert D. Helme, Yanyi Wang, David Shao-Chen Lu, Carolyn Arnold, Malcolm Hogg, Andrew A. Somogyi, Cliff Da Costa and Charlie Chang Li Xue
Abstract: Objectives: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of electroacupuncture in reducing opioid consumption in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain. Design: A randomized, participant-assessor-blinded, three-arm trial. Setting: Participants from three pain clinics and from the public. Subjects: One hundred and eight adults with chronic pain who were taking opioids. Methods: All participants received pain and medication management education. Participants were randomly allocated to electroacupuncture (N = 48), sham electroacupuncture (N = 29), or education alone (N = 31) to receive relevant treatment for 12 weeks. The last group received electroacupuncture during the three-month follow-up. Analysis of covariance and paired t tested were used. Results: Opioid dosage, that is, the primary outcome measure, was reduced by 20.5% (P < 0.05) and 13.7% (P < 0.01) in the two acupuncture groups and by 4.5% in the education group at the end of the treatment phase, but without any group difference. Intensity of pain of all three groups did not change over time. No group differences were found in dosage of nonopioid analgesics, pain intensity, function, and opioid-related adverse events. During follow-up, the education group had a 47% reduction of opioids after a course of electroacupuncture. Adverse events to electroacupuncture were minor. Conclusion: It is safe to reduce opioid medication use in patients with chronic pain. Due to the small sample size, we could not confirm if electroacupuncture offers extra benefit in addition to education. This nondrug therapy could be a promising adjunct to facilitate opioid tapering in patients who are willing to reduce opioids.
Keywords: Chronic Pain; acupuncture; randomized controlled trial; education; opioids reduction
Rights: © 2018 American Academy of Pain Medicine. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:
DOI: 10.1093/pm/pny113
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