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Can acupuncture help side effects of chemotherapy?

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Going through cancer treatment is hard enough as it is, let alone dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy. Read more below on how acupuncture can help!

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Research Update: Acupuncture and side effects of chemotherapy

Many people seek integrative care while going through chemotherapy, mostly to help with the side effects of the treatments. The two most common side effects experienced are nausea and vomiting, a close runner up is low energy or fatigue. Chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) affects 60-80% of cancer patients according to a new study (Melo, 2019). It has been shown that acupuncture in addition to ear acupuncture points (auriculotherapy) can help to curb nausea and increase energy.

Read more about how acupuncture can help nausea in our previous post here.

Acupuncture and chemotherapy

A look at another study

A 2018 study published in the World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion looked at the effect of acupuncture treatments on rectal cancer patients who were experiencing hand-foot syndrome caused by their chemotherapy treatments. Hand-foot syndrome is a known side effect of chemotherapy characterized by redness, swelling, tingling, numbness, itching and pain in the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

The researchers found acupuncture significantly reduced all of the symptoms associated with hand-foot syndrome to the extent they considered 17 percent of patients completely cured and the treatments were significantly effective in 70 percent of patients.

To conduct the study, researchers from Chongqing Cancer Institute recruited 60 patients with rectal cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Half of the patients received acupuncture and half were treated simply by taking B6 vitamins. Their hand-foot syndrome was scored using two internationally recognized scales indicating symptom severity and physical disability.

The patients in the acupuncture group received 30-minute treatments every day for two weeks. The patients in the B6 vitamin group took the supplement daily for two weeks.

How does acupuncture view hand-foot syndrome?

According to traditional Chinese medicine, hand-foot syndrome indicates poor qi and blood circulation, a deficiency in qi and blood or dampness leading to a blockage in qi that prohibits nourishment from reaching the skin and muscles, causing numbness and pain. The acupuncture treatments were directed at promoting blood and qi circulation and removing stagnation.

After the treatments, patients in both groups showed improvement, but symptoms and physical disabilities for the patients in the acupuncture group decreased significantly more than for the patients in the B6 vitamin group. Based on the analysis of the scores, in the acupuncture group, the treatments cured five patients were effective for 16 patients, meaning their symptom score was downgraded to the lowest possible number on the scale and their physical ability score increased to between 80 and 89 out of 100 possible points. The treatments were effective for 70 percent of patients compared with 36 percent of patients in the B6 vitamin group.

The report concludes, “The results demonstrate that an integrative model of patient care utilizing acupuncture as a treatment modality produces significantly less adverse effects associated with chemotherapy.”

Research consistently shows acupuncture is effective at increasing circulation throughout the body, improving the flow of blood and therefore nutrients to injured cells, muscles or tissues.

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Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist in Bothell, WA at her practice Starting Point Acupuncture. She is a pain specialist, seeing people who suffer from chronic pain, migraines, as well as digestive issues. Offering pain relief injections, acupuncture, facial rejuvenation, and nutrition consults. Most insurances accepted. Dr. Ellie Heintze is also the author of the book, A Starting Point Guide to Going Gluten-Free on Amazon.


Sources:

https://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1947-acupuncture-reverses-chemotherapy-side-effects?fbclid=IwAR1tYNJU334rcQHyrqaq8DBrP1YJu5EbNXIXoEa2TfNLpjrtJx3-sNkH7sw

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31416474

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Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc

  • Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
    Bastyr University
  • Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
    Bastyr University
  • Master’s Degree in Chemistry
    Northern Arizona University
Doctor Ellie Heintze

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