Some of the best results of modern healthcare can be reached with an integrative approach, utilizing both Western and traditional Chinese medicine. A good example of this is how acupuncture can be used to relieve the side-effects of chemotherapy treatments. Long-term fatigue is one common side-effect of chemotherapy. In a recent study by the University of Manchester, acupuncture reduces fatigue by over a third, and radically improves patients’ quality of life.
In the University of Manchester’s latest study, 47 patients suffering from moderate to severe fatigue were enrolled in a randomized placebo controlled trial at Manchester’s Christie Hospital. The patients were randomly seeded into one of three groups to receive either acupuncture, acupressure or sham acupressure.
The acupuncture group received six 20-minute sessions spread over three weeks. During these sessions, the characteristic thin needles were inserted about two centimeters into the patients’ skin at three points. The points were selected for their alleged propensity to boost energy levels and reduce fatigue.
Patients in the acupressure group were taught to massage the same acupuncture points for one minute a day for two weeks. The sham acupressure group was taught the same technique but told to massage different points on the body not associated with energy and fatigue.
Wellbeing and energy levels were assessed using the standard Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory. Patients in the acupuncture group reported a 36 percent improvement in fatigue levels whilst those in the acupressure group improved by 19 percent. Those in the sham acupressure group reported a 0.6 percent improvement.
Acupuncture has been found to relieve not only fatigue but also nausea after chemotherapy. The US National Institutes of Health says that acupuncture is an effective treatment for nausea caused by anaesthesia and cancer chemotherapy as well as dental pain following surgery. Hot flashes are another negative chemotherapy side-effect that acupuncture can alleviate.
A Yale University/University of Pittsburg study of women with hot flashes due to conventional breast cancer treatment reveals that women receiving acupuncture will have less hot flashes. This randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial collected data in the National Institutes of Health-funded General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) associated with Yale School of Medicine and Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH). The study was approved by the Yale University Institutional Review Board (IRB). The researchers measured a 30 percent reduction of hot flashes for women receiving acupuncture. The women received traditional acupuncture points indicated for hot flashes and menopausal symptoms including acupuncture points for sleep disturbances, loss of concentration, pain, headaches, and anxiety. They received a total of eight, 20-30 minute, acupuncture treatments over a period of 12 weeks. The first four acupuncture visits were administered once per week and then once every other week following.
As these studies show, acupuncture can reduce fatigue, anxiety, and even pain caused by chemotherapy cancer treatments. The scientists at the University of Manchester, UK say their preliminary results are so promising that further research needs to be carried out to study the effect in more detail.