Minneapolis Hospital Finds Success Treating ER Patients With Acupuncture

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As recently reported by the Star Tribune, the Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis is experiencing success treating emergency room patients with acupuncture. The hospital became the first in the country to incorporate acupuncture into its ER regime two years ago, as a way to reduce the amount of addictive opioids typically administered to patients. Since he was hired, acupuncturist Adam Reinstein has successfully treated patients with a variety of ailments – including car accident injuries and kidney stone pain.

“No matter what I’m treating them for, patients report feeling calmer, more relaxed, and less anxious,” said Reinstein, who observed responses as part of a study he co-authored with Jeffrey Dusek of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. Entitled “Acceptability, Adaptation, and Clinical Outcomes of Acupuncture Provided in the Emergency Department,” the paper was published in the Pain Medicine journal and revealed many encouraging conclusions to their initial pilot study.

The goal was to evaluate how patients felt after receiving acupuncture when admitted to the ER for pain and/or anxiety. 436 individuals in total were involved in the research, which concluded that “acupuncture was acceptable and effective for pain and anxiety reduction, in conjunction with standard medical care.” The pair are now pursuing a federal grant to conduct a larger, more definitive study with 750 patients.

What Reinstein asserts is that the goal of his research, and continued work in the ER, isn’t to convince hospital administrators or ER medical staff that Chinese medicine is somehow ‘better’ than traditional approaches to healthcare. “It’s not about Western medicine” vs. Eastern medicine,” he said. “It’s not about the medication. It’s not about acupuncture. It’s about, what can we do to make the patient feel better?”

Dr. Chris Kapsner, the medical director of Abbott’s ER, added that the hospital’s decision to promote the use of both is very simple: it’s about saving lives. “We’re cognizant that there is a huge epidemic of opioid overuse,” he said, “and we’re doing our best not to be part of the problem, but to be part of the solution.”

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