Acupuncture uses needles to stimulate the body’s pressure or energy points. Thin needles are typically inserted just under the skin and left in place for about a half-hour. According to Chinese medicine theory, this helps restore balance and a healthy energy flow within the body. Acupuncture may help to alleviate symptoms associated with cancer as well as some of the side effects of conventional treatment. Research studies support the use of acupuncture in complementary cancer care and according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) expert panel, acupuncture is an effective treatment for pain and nausea caused by chemotherapy drugs, surgery and radiation. Acupuncture may also help to alleviate fatigue associated with such treatments and menopausal symptoms in the breast cancer survivor. In addition, acupuncture has been shown to improve sleep, memory, mood, energy, and general well being in people living with cancer.
That acupuncture is a powerful tool for general pain control is widely known. However, its effectiveness in controlling some cancer-related pain and in reducing narcotic use is now becoming clear. The needles stimulate nerve endings, causing the brain to release endorphins, a natural painkiller. In addition, it can be quite helpful in curbing headaches often experienced as a side effect of treatments as well as peripheral neuropathy and post-operative pain.
Acupuncture is often used as a complementary treatment modality to treat nausea or vomiting in a variety of conditions including that related to chemotherapy. The dreaded nausea and vomiting which commonly occurs as a result of chemotherapy can often be debilitating. Acupuncture may provide additional relief of nausea beyond what medication alone can achieve and thus has been incorporated into the services provided by many mainstream oncology practices.
Acupuncture has been used as an adjunct treatment in anesthesia, post-operative pain control, and in supporting recovery from surgery. Electroacupuncture (acupuncture in which weak electrical currents are sent through the needles) has been shown to be an effective treatment for the upper limb edema that often occurs following surgery for breast cancer. It can also help to treat symptomatic scars and nerve dysfunction at the surgical site. In addition, acupuncture imparts a sense of well being, improves energy, mood, sleep and accelerates recovery.