Is it true that acupuncture can help ease the side effects of cancer drug or is it just a theory that is still to be proven?
By Dr. Mercola
Every year, millions of Americans turn to acupuncture as part of their health care routine, using it to relieve chronic pain, high blood pressure, nausea and much more. Although in the US, acupuncture is considered an alternative to conventional forms of medicine, it is actually one of the oldest healing practices in the world.
In China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries, acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, and its staying power isn’t merely a matter of superstition or coincidence.
Acupuncture has withstood the test of time because it works to safely relieve many common health complaints. And, interestingly, one recent study even showed that not only does acupuncture work, but so, too, does a sham acupuncture procedure…
Acupuncture May Ease Menopausal Symptoms in Cancer Patients
New research has again confirmed acupuncture’s usefulness, this time among women being treated with aromatase inhibitor drugs for breast cancer. The drugs, which lower estrogen, often lead to significant menopausal symptoms including joint and muscle pain, hot flashes, and night sweats.
The study involved nearly 50 breast cancer patients taking aromatase inhibitors. They received either eight weekly acupuncture sessions or a sham procedure involving non-penetrating needles placed in “fake” acupuncture points.
It turned out that both sets of patients reported significantly improved symptoms, especially among hot flashes. This included those who had received either the real or sham acupuncture.
This could certainly be a demonstration of the placebo effect in action, although the researchers also suggested that the slight pricking of the skin involved in the sham procedure may have caused physiological changes. Either way, if it works to make you feel better, does it really matter why? As Dr. Ting Bao, the study’s lead author, stated:
“Acupuncture as a medical procedure has been practiced for thousands of years… It has a minimal risk and potentially significant benefits.”
How Does Acupuncture Work?
With documented use dating back more than 2,500 years, acupuncture is based on the premise that there are more than 2,000 acupuncture points in the human body, which are connected by bioenergetic pathways known as meridians. It is through these pathways that Qi, or energy, flows, and when the pathway is blocked, the disruptions can lead to imbalances and chronic disease.
The treatment itself, which involves the insertion of metallic hair-thin needles (typically three to 15) into specific acupuncture points, can be conducted by a physician or a trained acupuncturist. It generally involves little or no discomfort, and patients often report feeling energized or relaxed following the procedure.
Acupuncture is proven to impact a number of chronic health conditions, and it’s thought that it stimulates your central nervous system to release natural chemicals that alter bodily systems, pain and other biological processes. Evidence, in fact, suggests that acupuncture impacts the body on multiple levels, including:
- Stimulating the conduction of electromagnetic signals, which may release immune system cells or pain-killing chemicals
- Activation of your body’s natural opioid system, which may help reduce pain or induce sleep
- Stimulation of your hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which modulate numerous body systems
- Change in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones, which may positively influence brain chemistry