Chances are that, unfortunately, either you or someone you know has visited the emergency room recently. Visits to the ER have become incredibly common and are continuing to rise. A study released last year showed that in 2014, ER visits spiked to 141 million in the United States, a record-high. And the University of Maryland School of Medicine estimates that nearly half of all medical care in the country is delivered by emergency room departments. That number is even higher for women and minorities.
The stark fact is that ER visits are all too common. And there are a few things that are just about consistent across all emergency rooms—the use of NSAIDs and painkillers, and a lack of choice for patients. Slowly but surely, a welcoming change may be on the horizon.
For 4 years, Adam Reinstein, LAc, has been administering acupuncture in the ER of Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. Five days a week, Reinstein operates in the busy, hectic environment that doesn’t seem well suited for acupuncture. But Reinstein, who used to practice communcity acupuncture, has adapted by offering shorter sessions (15-20 minutes), focusing on points in the hands, arms, ears, head, feet, and lower legs, and sees patients only once. The ER can be a stressful place, and Reinstein often focuses on helping patients to feel more comfortable.
"By and large, patients get some relaxation and decrease of anxiety or discomfort. Others get some pain relief or nausea relief...What I do just fits in with everything else that is going on [in the ER],” Reinstein said. “One talks a lot about patient-centered care but usually patients have little or no choice.”
We wholeheartedly agree with Reinstein, and would love to see more emergency departments offer acupuncture to their patients. In addition from it being a better treatment for pain, anxiety, and nausea than medication, acupuncture could also help patients recover more quickly, which allows ER staffs to work more efficiently and cut down wait times.
Acupuncture in the ER? It’s a win-win.