Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the research project involves a multi-disciplinary team of pain researchers, neurologists, pain specialists and acupuncturists from three Melbourne public hospitals and RMIT.
Researchers are currently recruiting volunteers aged 18 to 85 who have suffered from musculoskeletal pain for longer than three months and are using any type and dosage of opioid medications.
Professor Charlie Xue, Head of the School of Health Sciences at RMIT and lead investigator for the project, said although there was short-term benefit of opioid medications for chronic musculoskeletal pain, no evidence supported their long-term use.
“About 20 per cent of Australians suffer from chronic pain and increasingly this is being managed by opioid medications,” Professor Xue said.
“This study will investigate if acupuncture can help people with chronic musculoskeletal pain reduce their reliance on opioid medications.”
Dr Zhen Zheng, a Senior Lecturer at RMIT, said research had shown some chronic pain patients wanted alternatives to pain-relieving drugs.
“While some people respond well to long-term use of opioid medications, others struggle with the side effects, so we hope this clinical trial will help identify effective and new therapeutic options to help relieve their chronic pain,” Dr Zheng said.
Participants in the trial will be randomly allocated to receive either real electroacupuncture, fake electroacupuncture or no acupuncture, with 12 sessions of treatment to be delivered over 10 weeks at one of seven sites across Melbourne and Geelong.
At the end of the trial, participants allocated to the no-acupuncture group will be given the opportunity to receive electroacupuncture treatment for 10 weeks.
The project has been approved by the RMIT Human Research Ethics Committee and ethics committees of the participating hospitals.
For more information or to volunteer, contact Trial Coordinator Dr YanYi Wang on (03) 9925 7396 or email.
For interviews: Dr Zhen Zheng (03) 9925 7167.
For media enquiries: RMIT University, Marketing and Communications, Gosia Kaszubska, (03) 9925 3176 or 0417 510 735.