Topic: Should Emergency Departments Offer Acupuncture

Dr. Tehea Robie, MS, L.Ac., DAOM., Dipl. OM


Dr. Tehea Robie is a hospital-trained acupuncturist and doctor of Chinese herbal medicine. Dr. Tehea is a co-author of “A Retrospective Study of Acupuncture in the Emergency Department in a Public Safety-Net Hospital”, the abstract of which was presented at the Society for Acupuncture Research in 2019. Dr. Tehea draws on her years of work in mental health and manual therapy. Areas of particular interest are: integrative medicine, emotional distress due to trauma, pain relief and the neurobiology of PTSD.


In 28 US states, every two years since 1999, death from synthetic opioids has doubled. The opioid overdose rate in Washington DC has tripled every year since 2013 (annual percent change, 228.3%; 95% CI, 169.7%-299.6%; p < .001) (Kiang et al. 2019). Opioid related deaths in the US rose from 2.9% in 1999 to 13.2% in 2016. National Vital Statistics System data does not differentiate between deaths from pharmaceutical (synthetic) opioids and illicit (synthetic) opioids (Center for Disease Control, 2018).

The Western medical system is in dire need of alternatives for pain relief. Can acupuncture provide such an alternative? The FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration) 2017 Pain Management Blueprint suggested that medical doctors educate themselves on the uses of chiropractic care and acupuncture (Thielking, 2017). The American College of Physicians’ 2017 Clinical Guidelines recommend acupuncture as a first line of treatment for chronic low back pain (Chelly, 2017). A growing number of Emergency Departments around the globe have employed the use of acupuncture for pain management: Aurora West Allis in Wisconsin (Ford-Stewart, 2019); Highland Hospital in Oakland, CA (Alameda Health System, n.d.); Northern, Alfred, Epworth and Cabrini Hospitals in Melbourne, Australia; and Fattouma Bourguiba University Hospital in Monastir, Tunisia (Grissa et al. 2016) – to name a few.

In May of 2019, the World Health Assembly voted to adopt the 11th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (IDC11). ICD11 includes an entire chapter on traditional Chinese medicine diagnostic codes, which was implemented in January of 2022. (WHA, 2019)

In this webinar, I will explore existing emergency departments with acupuncture services and I will draw from my own experiences providing acupuncture services in the emergency department of Highland Hospital in Oakland, CA. In 2017 and 2018, I was one of the few DAOM doctoral candidates to train in a US hospital. During four week rotations in cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, infectious disease, nephrology, and oncology – we shadowed medical interns, residents and attending during their clinical rounds. During our emergency department rotations, we treated patients that we felt we could help.


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