The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center

Holistic Medicine (CAM)

Acupuncture

Bamboo cup pouring waterAcupuncture originated in China more than 2,500 years ago and spread first throughout Asia, and later to Europe and the Americas. While acupuncture has been offered in Asian communities throughout the United States for many generations, it is only since 1970, following the opening of China to the West, that this system of health care has been available to the general population in this country. Acupuncture is a principle modality of Eastern medicine which focuses on healing within a unified system of body, mind and spirit. As a result, acupuncture is generally used in conjunction with herbal, massage, diet and exercise therapies to maximize health, prevent illness and treat disease.

According to Western medicine, the effects of Acupuncture are probably the result of stimulating the nervous system to release chemicals which may in turn release other hormones producing the desired effects. This theory is supported by the basic research work which has shown acupunctures effect on ACTH, insulin, thyroid hormones, growth stimulating hormone, beta-endorphin, white blood cell production and plasma cholesterol levels. Acupuncture may work on an electromagnetic bio-information system. In traditional Chinese Medicine training, acupuncture is believed to modulate the flow of energy (Qi) in its channels, or meridians, to restore balance.

Although electrical stimulation, lasers, heat/moxibustion or pressure may be used to manipulate Qi meridians, treatment with acupuncture needles is the most commonly used technique. In an acupuncture session, acupuncturists may insert and remove the needles quickly or leave them in for longer periods of time, often with the application of heat or electrical impulses. Typically, 3-15 long thin solid needles are placed in various locations according to the meridians, not necessarily at the anatomic site of symptoms.

Acupuncture is a gentle therapy. People often find it so relaxing that they fall asleep during therapy with the needles still in! Acupuncture needles are extremely thin (the width of a hair) stainless steel and very flexible. Insertion of these needles is usually painless. The sensation during acupuncture needle insertion varies between individuals and points chosen by the acupuncturist.

In general, adverse reactions to acupuncture are minimal, although case reports of complications do exist. Bleeding rarely occurs. Infection is minimized by most practitioners through the use of sterile disposable needles, one time use, which is recommended. Allergic reaction to the stainless steel needles is also rare. Pain varies by patient, but treatment is usually painless or slightly painful. Some patients report feeling temporary exacerbation of their symptoms. For patients receiving auricular (near the ear) treatments, the possibility of chondritis (inflammation of the ear cartilage) exists, although it is rare.

Questions

Picture of NeedlesDo the needles hurt?

Acupuncture is a gentle therapy. People often find it so relaxing that they fall asleep during therapy with the needles still in! Unlike their western counterparts (Hypodermic hollow needles, or shots) acupuncture needles are extremely thin (the width of a hair) stainless steel and very flexible. Insertion of these needles is often painless. The sensation during acupuncture needle insertion varies between individuals and points chosen by the acupuncturist. Once the needles are in place there is no pain at all. Acupuncture needles are all sterile, one time use.

How do I prepare for acupuncture?

The following guidelines are meant to enhance your response to treatment:

  • Wear loose fitting clothing
  • Eat a few hours before treatment (Do not come on an empty stomach, if possible)
  • Refrain from drinking alcohol on the day of treatment
  • Continue to take all prescription drugs
  • Refrain from taking recreational drugs. Recreational drugs interfere with the effectiveness of treatment
  • Keep notes about your response to treatment. Your acupuncturist may base the next treatment on your response to treatment

Indications for Acupuncture

  • Pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neuropathy
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Smoking reduction

Research

  • The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as being helpful for over 140 different problems
  • National Institutes of Health indicates that there is clear evidence in that acupuncture is effective for chemotherapy- related nausea and vomiting
  • Recent research has demonstrated acupunctures effectiveness in treating fatigue related to cancer treatment, and pain