Article Text


Acupuncture as analgesia for non-emergent acute non-specific neck pain, ankle sprain and primary headache in an emergency department setting: a protocol for a parallel group, randomised, controlled pilot trial


Introduction This study aims to assess the feasibility of acupuncture as an add-on intervention for patients with non-emergent acute musculoskeletal pain and primary headache in an emergency department (ED) setting.

Methods and analysis A total of 40 patients who present to the ED and are diagnosed to have acute non-specific neck pain, ankle sprain or primary headache will be recruited by ED physicians. An intravenous or intramuscular injection of analgesics will be provided as the initial standard pain control intervention for all patients. Patients who still have moderate to severe pain after the 30 min of initial standard ED management will be considered eligible. These patients will be allocated in equal proportions to acupuncture plus standard ED management or to standard ED management alone based on computer-generated random numbers concealed in opaque, sealed, sequentially numbered envelopes. A 30 min session of acupuncture treatment with manual and/or electrical stimulation will be provided by qualified Korean medicine doctors. All patients will receive additional ED management at the ED physician's discretion and based on each patient's response to the allocated intervention. The primary outcome will be pain reduction measured at discharge from the ED by an unblinded assessor. Adverse events in both groups will be documented. Other outcomes will include the patient-reported overall improvement, disability due to neck pain (only for neck-pain patients), the treatment response rate, the use of other healthcare resources and the patients’ perceived effectiveness of the acupuncture treatment. A follow-up telephone interview will be conducted by a blinded assessor 72±12 h after ED discharge.

Ethics and dissemination Written informed consent will be obtained from all participants. The study has been approved by the Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). The results of this study will guide a full-scale randomised trial of acupuncture in an ED context.

Trial registration number NCT02013908.

  • Accident & Emergency Medicine
  • Pain Management
  • Complementary Medicine

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