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Acupuncture is a feasible treatment for chronic pain, and is well received by low-income patients in the government-fundedMedicaid programme, according to research carried out in the USA. Previous studies have shown that one of the main barriers to the utilisation of acupuncture and other non-pharmacological treatments for chronic pain is a lack of health insurance coverage. This barrier has a disproportionate effect on the financially disadvantaged Medicaid population, whose members are especially affected by the country’s current prescription opioid crisis. In a pragmatic randomised trial, Medicaid patients with chronic pain were offered up to 12 acupuncture treatments in a 60-day period. Acupuncturists were allowed to perform whatever style of acupuncture they felt was appropriate for each patient, and were permitted to include a full range of supplementary modalities including manual therapy, cupping, herbal medicine and lifestyle advice. Patients were also allowed access to usual care during the study. A total of 156 patients with a wide range of pain complaints received a mean of 8.2 treatments during the intervention period. Measurements over the course of the treatment period showed significant improvements in pain intensity, pain interference, physical function, fatigue, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance and social isolation. Fifty-seven per cent of patients using non-opioid analgesic medication reported reductions in use. Thirty-two percent of patients using opioid medication reported reductions in its use following the intervention. Seventy-four per cent of employed patients reported improved capacity to work. Ninety-six per cent of patients said that they would recommend acupuncture to others with chronic pain, and 91 per cent reported qualitative improvements, including physical (31%), functional/behavioral (29%) and psycho-emotional (24%) benefits.

 

Acupuncture for Chronic Pain in the Vermont Medicaid Population: A Prospective, Pragmatic Intervention Trial.Glob Adv Health Med. 2018 Apr 10;7:2164956118769557.

 

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