Background: Pain is the most common reason that patients present to an emergency department (ED) and is often inadequately managed. Evidence suggests that acupuncture is effective for pain relief, yet it is rarely practiced in the ED. The current study aims to assess the efficacy of acupuncture for providing effective analgesia to patients presenting with acute low back pain, migraine and ankle sprain at the EDs of four hospitals in Melbourne, Australia.
Method: The study is a multi-site, randomized, assessor-blinded, controlled trial of acupuncture analgesia in patients who present to an ED with low back pain, migraine or ankle sprain. Patients will be block randomized to receive either acupuncture alone, acupuncture as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy or pharmacotherapy alone. Acupuncture will be applied according to Standards for Reporting Interventions in Clinical Trials of Acupuncture (STRICTA). Pain after one hour, measured using a visual analogue scale (VAS), is the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes measures include the following instruments; the Oswestry low back pain disability questionnaire, 24-hour Migraine Quality of Life questionnaire and Patient's Global Assessment of Ankle Injury Scale. These measures will be recorded at baseline, 1 hour after intervention, each hour until discharge and 48±12 hours of ED discharge. Data will also be collected on the safety and acceptability of acupuncture and health resource utilization.
Discussion: The results of this study will determine if acupuncture, alone or as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy provides effective, safe and acceptable pain relief for patients presenting to EDs with acute back pain, migraine or ankle sprain. The results will also identify the impact that acupuncture treatment may have upon health resource utilisation in the ED setting.
Trial registration: Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Register (ANZCTR): ACTRN12609000989246.