Acupuncture for Treatment of Uncontrolled Pain in Cancer Patients: A Pragmatic Pilot Study



Acupuncture for Treatment of Uncontrolled Pain in Cancer Patients: A Pragmatic Pilot Study


Journal Publication





Research Type




PURPOSE: Pain control is an ongoing challenge in the oncology setting. Prior to implementing a large randomized trial at our institution, we investigated the feasibility, safety, and initial efficacy of acupuncture for uncontrolled pain among cancer patients. HYPOTHESES: Our hypotheses were that the acupuncture treatments provided would be (a) feasible, (b) safe, and (c) a beneficial adjunct to pain management. STUDY DESIGN: This was a single arm, nonrandomized pragmatic pilot study. METHODS: Participants experiencing pain >/=4 on a 0 to 10 numeric rating scale received a maximum of 10 treatments on an individualized basis. Recruitment, attrition, compliance, and adverse events (AEs) were assessed. Pain (Brief Pain Inventory-Short Form), quality of life (MD Anderson Symptom Inventory [MDASI]), and patient satisfaction were assessed at baseline and at the end of treatment. RESULTS: Of 115 patients screened, 52 (45%) were eligible and agreed to participate. Eleven (21%) were lost to follow-up, leaving 41 who completed all study procedures. No AEs were reported. Mean pain severity was 6.0 +/- 1.3 at baseline and 3.8 +/- 2.0 at follow-up (P < .0001). Pain interference was 6.2 +/- 2.3 at baseline and 4.3 +/- 2.8 at follow-up (P < .0011). On the MDASI, the mean symptom severity was 4.6 +/- 1.8 at baseline and 3.2 +/- 1.9 at follow-up (P < .0001), and mean symptom interference was 5.8 +/- 2.4 at baseline and 4.1 +/- 2.9 at follow-up (P < .002). Prescribed pain medications decreased across the course of the study. Patient satisfaction was high: 87% reported that their expectations were met "very well" or "extremely well"; 90% said they were likely to participate again; 95% said they were likely to recommend acupuncture to others; and 90% reported they found the service to be "useful" or "very useful." CONCLUSIONS: Acupuncture was feasible, safe, and a helpful treatment adjunct for cancer patients experiencing uncontrolled pain in this study. Randomized placebo-controlled trials are needed to confirm these results.


Date of Input: 12/6/2013; Date Modified: 5/6/2014; Availability: --In File--; Priority: Normal; Pain; Eng; Web:

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