By Justine Myers, Lic. Ac.
3 recent studies of cancer patients showed acupuncture to be effective in various ways. The first study showed that acupuncture reduces cancer pain and painkiller use. A second study showed that acupuncture lessens chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, and a third study showed that acupuncture reduces radiation-induced dry mouth.
Although these studies were specific to cancer patients and side-effects of cancer treatments, we’d like to elaborate on these findings. Acupuncture is helpful for all types of pain, peripheral neuropathy and dry mouth. We have first-hand experience treating these conditions in our own patients, and it would be beneficial for you and others to know about this as well.
When it comes to pain, acupuncture is effective for all types: musculoskeletal pain, arthritic pain, headaches and migraines, menstrual pain, abdominal pain, fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome and more. Many of our patients try acupuncture with the goal of pain relief and many are able to reduce or eliminate the need for painkillers/over the counter pain relief medicine. Acupuncture is always worth a try for pain.
In terms of peripheral neuropathy (pain/tingling/numbness in hands/fingers and feet/toes), we have patients who have experienced a substantial reduction in severity of neuropathy related to chemotherapy and diabetes, as well as neuropathy without any specific underlying condition. Our patients are pleased when they have less discomfort and greater function (i.e. walking more easily, using their fingers/hands with fine motor skills more easily/comfortably). Although acupuncture is helpful for all types of neuropathy, we do want to point out that when there is an underlying condition such as diabetes, it is extremely important to effectively address that condition (i.e. working with a physician/dietician to ensure blood sugar levels are healthy/stable) in addition to the use of acupuncture for the neuropathy.
Finally, acupuncture is helpful for dry mouth and also for other symptoms of dryness such as dry eyes. Certain points are useful for stimulating the salivary glands and tear ducts, and for overall dryness in the body. We have seen this in patients with conditions such as blepharitis, Sjogren’s syndrome and dry mouth related to the use of medications.
We are pleased to see many cancer centers offering acupuncture for their patients to help manage their symptoms, and it is also fantastic that research is being done in these settings. Acupuncture is gaining in popularity due to its efficacy in a wide variety of health conditions.