An American study of acupuncture for chronic pain has explored the patient experience in group and individual treatment settings for the first time. Qualitative interviews were conducted with a subset of 46 patients from two arms of a randomised comparative effectiveness trial of acupuncture for chronic pain conducted in a low income population. Patients were randomised to receive either individual acupuncture or acupuncture delivered in a small group. Analysis of interview transcripts showed that patients in both study arms valued the pain relief, improved quality of life and relaxation experienced through acupuncture. Participants described both positive and negative aspects of the group setting. Although privacy and mixed-sex groups were cited as a concern by a minority of patients, most of those randomised to the group setting noted that these concerns abated after initiating treatment. Patients in individual sessions described richer therapeutic relationships with the acupuncturists compared with those treated in groups. However, some indicated that the group itself contributed to their experience by helping them relax and by forming social bonds with other participants.

“It’s Better in a Group Anyway”: Patient Experiences of Group and Individual Acupuncture. J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Apr;24(4):336-342.

07. November 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Acupuncture, Chronic Pain

Acupuncture is a feasible treatment for chronic pain, and is well received by low-income patients in the government-fundedMedicaid programme, according to research carried out in the USA. Previous studies have shown that one of the main barriers to the utilisation of acupuncture and other non-pharmacological treatments for chronic pain is a lack of health insurance coverage. This barrier has a disproportionate effect on the financially disadvantaged Medicaid population, whose members are especially affected by the country’s current prescription opioid crisis. In a pragmatic randomised trial, Medicaid patients with chronic pain were offered up to 12 acupuncture treatments in a 60-day period. Acupuncturists were allowed to perform whatever style of acupuncture they felt was appropriate for each patient, and were permitted to include a full range of supplementary modalities including manual therapy, cupping, herbal medicine and lifestyle advice. Patients were also allowed access to usual care during the study. A total of 156 patients with a wide range of pain complaints received a mean of 8.2 treatments during the intervention period. Measurements over the course of the treatment period showed significant improvements in pain intensity, pain interference, physical function, fatigue, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance and social isolation. Fifty-seven per cent of patients using non-opioid analgesic medication reported reductions in use. Thirty-two percent of patients using opioid medication reported reductions in its use following the intervention. Seventy-four per cent of employed patients reported improved capacity to work. Ninety-six per cent of patients said that they would recommend acupuncture to others with chronic pain, and 91 per cent reported qualitative improvements, including physical (31%), functional/behavioral (29%) and psycho-emotional (24%) benefits.

Acupuncture for Chronic Pain in the Vermont Medicaid Population: A Prospective, Pragmatic Intervention Trial.Glob Adv Health Med. 2018 Apr 10;7:2164956118769557.