Postoperative pain management remains a significant challenge for all healthcare providers. The objective of this systematic review was to quantitatively evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture and related techniques as adjunct analgesics for acute postoperative pain management. We searched the databases of Medline (1966-2007), CINAHL, The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (2006), and Scopus for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) using acupuncture for postoperative pain management. We extracted data about postoperative opioid consumption, postoperative pain intensity, and opioid-related side-effects. Combined data were analysed using a random effects model. Fifteen RCTs comparing acupuncture with sham control in the management of acute postoperative pain were included. Weighted mean difference for cumulative opioid analgesic consumption was -3.14 mg (95% confidence interval, CI: -5.15, -1.14), -8.33 mg (95% CI: -11.06, -5.61), and -9.14 mg (95% CI: -16.07, -2.22) at 8, 24, and 72 h, respectively. Postoperative pain intensity (visual analogue scale, 0-100 mm) was also significantly decreased in the acupuncture group at 8 and 72 h compared with the control group. The acupuncture treatment group was associated with a lower incidence of opioid-related side-effects such as nausea (relative risk, RR: 0.67; 95% CI: 0.53, 0.86), dizziness (RR: 0.65; 95% CI: 0.52, 0.81), sedation (RR: 0.78; 95% CI: 0.61, 0.99), pruritus (RR: 0.75; 95% CI: 0.59, 0.96), and urinary retention (RR: 0.29; 95% CI: 0.12, 0.74). Perioperative acupuncture may be a useful adjunct for acute postoperative pain management.