Acupuncture involves use of needles, which are inserted just under the skin at particular points on the body to improve certain medical conditions. The needles are placed for a small duration of time on those particular points and then removed. Acupuncture can’t treat cancer but helps in managing signs and symptoms of cancer; it also helps to reduce side effects of conventional treatments.
It acts by evoking physical responses in nerve cells, the pituitary gland, and parts of the brain. This results in release of proteins, hormones, and brain chemicals affecting different body functions. Acupuncture is said to affect blood pressure and body temperature. It is used to provoke body to release endorphin the natural pain killer in the body.
Uses of Acupuncture in Cancer Treatment
- Acupuncture is used to reduce nausea and vomiting caused by conventional cancer treatment methods. It also reduces morning sickness.
- It also helps in checking other symptoms arising due to cancer treatment, such as weight loss, cough, chest pain, fever, anxiety, depression, night sweats, hot flashes, dry mouth, speech problems, and fluid in the arms or legs.
- It helps to improve immune system.
- Use of acupuncture can increase the number of white blood cells.
- Acupuncture also helps to check or reduce pain in some cancer patients.
- Patients undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, or hormonal therapy can use acupuncture as a supportive treatment to cope well with ongoing treatment.
- Acupuncture helps to reduce joint pain caused by hormone treatment for breast cancer.
- It is used to check numbness, tingling and sensation in the hands and feet after chemotherapy. These symptoms are also called peripheral neuropathy.
- It also reduces fatigue arising due to chemotherapy. Acupuncture and acupressure treatments reduce physical tiredness and boost activity in patients.
- Acupuncture reduces anxiety or mood changes
- Acupuncture can help patients check disturbed sleep caused due to conventional treatment.
- It also helps in improving breathing difficulties in some patients.
- It is quite effective in dry mouth caused by radiation.
Side Effects of Acupuncture
- Some patients may feel pain or bleeding at places where needle has been put.
- Bruising around the punctured point may be seen in some patients.
- Serious side effects, such as infection or heart damage are very rare with use of acupuncture.
- Some patients may feel dizziness, local internal bleeding, dermatitis, nerve damage, or elevated amount of pain.
- Patients should avoid activities needing high energy or alacrity such as driving after acupuncture.
- Patients having low platelets levels should avoid acupuncture as it could increase risk of bleeding.
- Patients with low white blood cell count should also avoid acupuncture as it could increase risk of infections.
- Patients with heart valve problems or patients using pacemaker or heart murmur should also avoid acupuncture.
- Pregnant patients should avoid acupuncture as some acupuncture points can make the womb contract resulting into some serious problems.
- Patients of lymphedema should not use acupuncture as areas having poor lymph drainage are more prone to infections if needles are inserted.