Acupuncture Beats Morphine for Acute Pain

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Acupuncture beats morphine for acute pain

When you or someone you love is suffering from bouts of acute pain, there is often a nearly reflex reaction to reach for chemical painkillers, especially morphine.

However, recent studies show the ancient practice of acupuncture to be a safe and effective alternative to morphine across a wide range of specific conditions.

In fact, there is evidence from thousands of published studies supporting acupuncture as a pain-relief therapy in over 100 conditions, and acupuncture has been recognized by the WHO as a proven technique for the last 20 years.

The Latest Evidence Favoring Acupuncture

In a groundbreaking 2016 study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, two groups of 150 patients each were administrated either intravenous morphine or acupuncture at the onset of acute pain over the course of a full year. The results were as follows:

  • Acupuncture reduced “pain scores” by 50% or more 92% of the time, while morphine achieved this in only 78% of cases.
  • Acupuncture patients received relief in 16 minutes on average; morphine took 28 minutes to become effective.
  • Short-term, minor side effects occurred in 57% of the morphine group but in only 30% of the acupuncture group.

The conclusion is clear: acupuncture delivered pain relief more reliably, more quickly, and with fewer adverse effects than morphine.

The exact manner in which acupuncture works is not fully understood, but nevertheless, it has been shown to effectively help the body to heal itself in ways that morphine never could.

The Benefits of Acupuncture Therapy

Acupuncture is widely used by professional athletes, those suffering from recent injuries, cancer survivors, elderly persons with chronic pain conditions, and others with recurring acute pain. It is used effectively against such conditions as arthritis, fibromyalgia, back and neck pain, herniated discs, spinal degeneration, whiplash, rotator cuff injuries, bursitis, knee, elbow, and other joint pain, carpal tunnel, hip pain, headaches/migraines, and more.

P. I. M

Acupuncture is known to have anti-inflammatory effects on the targeted muscles/tissues, and when you lessen inflammation, you reduce pain. It is also known to increase circulation, which directly combats the effects of contracted muscles by bringing in oxygen-rich blood and alleviating tension and pain. Finally, evidence suggests that acupuncture helps remove opioid peptides, which are a key contributor to creating the sensation of pain in your body.

The Dangers of Morphine

While morphine, taken either intravenously or orally, can quell an upsurge of acute pain, it brings with it a number of dangers that acupuncture does not have.

First, morphine is highly addictive and is classed by some as a narcotic. Even at normal dosage levels, it can be habit-forming and as destructive as any illegal drug. In fact, those who take morphine at home must be very careful to keep it locked away so that others cannot access it. Additionally, if pregnant women take morphine, their newborn babies can develop life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

Overdosing on morphine is also a very real danger. If an extended-release pill, for example, is swallowed after being broken/crushed, it could potentially be fatal. And taking larger or more frequent doses than prescribed can slow or even stop respiration.

Those with severe asthma or other respiratory conditions must not take morphine. Those with certain gastrointestinal blockages must also avoid it. And drinking alcoholic beverages while on morphine can produce severe side effects or even lead to death.

Professional Acupuncture Treatment

When done by a fully trained and state-licensed acupuncturist, acupuncture pain relief therapy is both safe and beneficial. Be sure, however, that your acupuncture provider works closely with your primary doctor so you can safely eliminate or reduce your use of morphine or other painkillers.

In the Santa Cruz, California, area, Solis has a rigorously trained and well-experienced staff that can provide acupuncture, herbal, and massage therapies.

One of their specialists in using acupuncture and related techniques to treat acute/chronic pain is Daniele Uzes, our pain and sports injury specialist. Daniele is highly skilled in such therapies as myofascial trigger-point needling (“dry needling”), electric acupuncture, ear acupuncture, cupping, and more. Daniele has deep experience in helping patients with neuromuscular problems, sports injuries, and trauma, and can assist you with both pain management and injury rehab.


Acupuncture is sometimes assumed to be illegitimate because the exact way that it helps alleviate pain is not fully understood, but studies show its effectiveness and superiority to morphine as a pain-relief method. Acupuncture also lacks many of the dangerous side effects that can occur with morphine use.

For a local pain management clinic in the Santa Cruz, CA, area, consider Solis, located in Capitola just east of Santa Cruz on Highway 1. Feel free to contact PIMA for more information or to schedule an appointment. Also, feel free to schedule an appointment directly with acupuncturist Daniele Uzes.

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Dr. Daniele Uzes

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Lishanna Emmert, DAOM, L.Ac

Lishanna Emmert, DAOM, L.Ac

Dr. Emmert has been treating chronic pain for 15 years. After obtaining her Master’s in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, she went on to do a Doctoral Program through the Henan University In China, then a second Doctoral program in San Jose, CA. Lishanna has done certification programs in functional nutrition, whole food supplements for pain and sports injury, orthopedic acupuncture, and functional herbal medicine.