Background Acupuncture is increasingly offered as a treatment for chronic pain, but continued treatment is expensive. Self acupuncture might offer a cost effective alternative. The aim of this project was to investigate the effectiveness and safety of self acupuncture in a pain clinic.
Methods A retrospective audit was conducted by postal questionnaire of all patients with chronic pain who were taught self acupuncture as a home pain management strategy in the previous three years. The study was conducted by a researcher not involved in the patient’s treatment. The patients selected for self acupuncture were those who had responded to acupuncture previously, met certain criteria, and had been taught self acupuncture successfully. Patients were taught self acupuncture using three acupuncture points (LI4, ST44, LR3).
Results Of 52 eligible patients (70% female) who were approached, 38 valid questionnaires were returned, giving a response rate of 73.1%. Of these, 76.3% were female; 86.8% (33) still used self acupuncture and 13.3% (5) had stopped; 86.8% of the patients continued to experience pain reduction with self acupuncture. The reported pain relief gained was 5.7 (SD 2.6) measured on a visual analogue scale, improvement in quality of life was reported by 73.7% and no serious adverse effects were reported.
Conclusion This audit suggests that self acupuncture is effective for pain relief and improves quality of life in this selected group of patients. Safety can be maintained provided that pre-selection is done with care, and appropriate training is carried out. Self acupuncture has considerable potential to reduce clinic waiting lists and appointment times for patients. Further research is required to determine the cost effectiveness of this approach.
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