Acupuncture 'as good as pain medication'

Georgia Main for 7News Investigations

A world-first trial at four hospital emergency departments has found acupuncture can provide the same relief as strong pain medication.

The study, in conjunction with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, followed 550 patients who received acupuncture to treat severe lower back pain, sprained ankles and migraines.

Initial results from the trial showed that one hour of acupuncture provided the same relief as strong pain medication.

“We do have good analgesic, but unfortunately if you have them for a long time you are at risk of side effects,” Dr Michael Ben-Meir from Cabrini Hospital said.

“The strong opiates like codene and oxy codene can cause constipation, and of course addiction,” he said.

Having been used for two thousand years, acupuncture is one of the world's oldest medical procedures.

The pain relief resulting from acupuncture works by releasing endorphins in the spinal chord, which are ‘the body's natural painkillers’.

Chinese medicine practitioner Dr Richard Feng is not surprised by the positive results.

“I found that Australian people like nature, they don't like medication, so they come here for the pain,” Dr Richard Feng said.

“What we do know is we don't deal with [chronic pain] that well, we really need to be looking at any and all options,” Dr Ben-Meir said.

Final results from the study will be released later this year.