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Acupuncture treats pain better than opioids

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Painkillers don’t work, but acupuncture does, and is a better way to manage chronic pain, a UK health standards agency is recommending.

The therapy should replace powerful opiate drugs, which are ineffective and addictive, says NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence), in a consultative paper on pain care. NICE is responsible for recommending treatments and drugs that are safe, effective and represent value for money for the UK’s National Health Service.

It is also recommending physical exercise, psychological therapy and antidepressants as proven ways to manage chronic pain.

Having looked at the evidence, the NICE advisers say that none of the standard painkillers is effective, including paracetamol, NSAIDs (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs), benzodiazepines and opioids. With opioids, the committee said there was evidence of long-term harm.

Instead, the NICE committee found 27 studies that discovered acupuncture reduces pain and improves the sufferer’s quality of life in three months, compared to a placebo or ‘sham’ acupuncture. Group exercise and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) were also effective.

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(Source: NICE consultative paper: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/indevelopment/gid-ng10069/consultation/html-content-2)

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