The effect of electroacupuncture on opioid-like medication consumption by chronic pain patients: a pilot randomized controlled clinical trial

Eur J Pain. 2008 Jul;12(5):671-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2007.10.003. Epub 2007 Nov 26.


Opioid-like medications (OLM) are commonly used by patients with various types of chronic pain, but their long-term benefit is questionable. Electroacupuncture (EA) has been previously shown beneficial in reducing post-operative acute OLM consumption. In this pilot randomized controlled trial, the effect of EA on OLM usage and associated side effects in chronic pain patients was evaluated. After a two-week baseline assessment, participants using OLM for their non-malignant chronic pain were randomly assigned to receive either real EA (REA, n=17) or sham EA (SEA, n=18) treatment twice weekly for 6 weeks before entering a 12-week follow-up. Pain, OLM consumption and their side effects were recorded daily. Participants also completed the McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ), SF-36 and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) at baseline, and at the 5th, 8th, 12th, 16th and 20th week. Nine participants withdrew during the treatment period with another three during the follow-up period. Intention to treat analysis was applied. At the end of treatment period, reductions of OLM consumption in REA and SEA were 39% and 25%, respectively (p=0.056), but this effect did not last more than 8 weeks after treatment. There was no difference between the two groups with respect to reduction of side effects and pain and the improvement of depression and quality of life. In conclusion, REA demonstrates promising short-term reduction of OLM for participants with chronic non-malignant pain, but such effect needs to be confirmed by trials with adequate sample sizes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Depression / complications
  • Electroacupuncture*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prohibitins
  • Quality of Life
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • PHB2 protein, human
  • Prohibitins