St. Francis hopes acupunture will replace for prescribed opioids for many patients.

St. Francis Regional Medical Center now offers acupuncture services to emergency room patients as a natural way to heal pain and anxiety and reduce the need for pain medication.

The Shakopee hospital’s emergency department is among the first in the nation offering acupuncture to patients.

The service — provided to patients for free thanks to the Saints Healthcare Funds — is available to all ER patients experiencing anything from a minor migraine to significant trauma. More than 30,000 patients visit St. Francis’ emergency room each year.

“Acupuncture is a minimally invasive, completely safe, highly effective therapeutic option for patients experiencing pain,” said Dr. Jeff Hill, emergency physician at St. Francis Regional Medical Center. “And the best part is it’s a treatment without mind-altering chemicals, so our patients can walk out of the hospital, drive home, and go on with their day.”

Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese treatment technique, stimulates natural endorphins in the body, promoting better circulation and natural healing. A recent study conducted by the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing found that ER patients who receive acupuncture experience significant reductions in pain and anxiety.

St. Francis hopes this added service will replace prescribed opioids for many patients.

“Ninety-one Americans die every day from an opioid overdose; it’s a national epidemic. Offering acupuncture in our emergency department is one way for St. Francis to decrease incidences of prescribed opioids and help be a part of the solution,” said Dr. Brian Clarkowski, emergency department medical director at St. Francis Regional Medical Center.

Beyond the ER, St. Francis offers acupuncture to patients as part of its integrative health program, a holistic approach to health care that taps into the body’s natural healing capabilities.

St. Francis’s integrative health team even provides acupuncture to cancer patients receiving chemotherapy treatments, helping to reduce anxiety, pain and nausea.

“Acupuncture is quickly becoming embraced in American medicine because the results from this ancient medicine cannot be ignored,” said Kristianne Schultz, a licensed acupuncturist at St. Francis Regional Medical Center. “What better way to treat pain than through the natural stimulation of the body’s endorphins and innate healing mechanisms?”