Much has been written on acupuncture’s alleviation of various types of pain from low back pain, labor pain, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia to migraines and dental pain. However, acupuncture has also been found to be effective in reducing the severe nausea and vomiting that can accompany chemotherapy treatment for cancer.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the insertion of very thin needles through the skin at particular points on the body. There are two types of acupuncture: manual and electrical. The difference between the two is that in electroacupuncture (EA), the needles are charged with an electrical current. An alternative form of acupuncture is acupressure where the acupuncture points are stimulated with finger pressure instead of the insertion of needles. There are more than 400 acupuncture points on the body located along 14 channels. Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese medicine. The Chinese believe that the needles insertion rebalances the flow of energy in the body.
Side effects of Acupuncture
Few complications from using acupuncture have been reported. Infection can occur; but the FDA requires the use of sterile single-use needles. Side effects including pain at the site during treatment, lightheadedness or tiredness have been reported.
Acupuncture and Acupressure’s Effectiveness on Nausea and Vomiting
Several types of studies have demonstrated the positive effects of electroacupuncture on acute chemotherapy-induced vomiting (ie. within 24 hours of chemotherapy administration). The review of studies on acupuncture’s effects has suggested acupuncture is more effective for vomiting than acute or chronic nausea. However, one study showed there was a significant decrease in delayed nausea when acupressure was used at acupuncture point P6. Additionally, another randomized controlled study of women undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer showed intramuscular injection of vitamin B6 along with acupuncture had a positive effect with regard to nausea/vomiting.
There is considerable evidence of electroacupuncture being effective for chemotherapy-induced vomiting. There is some evidence that acupressure could be a significant help for delayed nausea. Vitamin B6 injection given along with acupuncture has showed promise for reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Hopefully, additional studies will support the effectiveness of both acupressure and the use of intramuscular B6 injection in conjunction with acupuncture as helpful therapies for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
Sources: Mayo Clinic at mayoclinic.com
National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health through cancer.gov
Baylor University Medical Center proceedings through Pub Med Central at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov