Is Acupuncture Helpful for Easing Cancer Pain?

An acupuncturist comments on research that suggests acupuncture may be a useful tool for easing cancer pain.

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CLEVELAND – Treating cancer is a team effort. Now, recent research suggests recruiting an acupuncturist may be beneficial.

Cleveland Clinic acupuncturist, Jamie Starkey, did not take part in the study but said results show acupuncture may be useful for easing cancer pain.

“It’s safe, it’s effective and it’s quite helpful in terms of bringing your cancer-related pain scores down without a significant amount of side effects,” she said.

The study reviews 17 trials looking at acupuncture and acupressure.

Results show these alternative therapies are associated with reduced cancer pain and decreased use of pain medications.

Starkey said pain medications often come with a host of side effects, which can reduce quality of life.

Decreasing pain medication can alleviate unpleasant side effects and allow people to move forward with cancer treatments more comfortably.

Starkey said acupuncture dates back thousands of years and studies show the ancient practice manages pain by influencing the nervous system.

“We have the release of endorphins from the central nervous system, which is your body’s natural pain relieving chemical, and so we see through studies that acupuncture has an effect in influencing your nervous system to create a pain relieving effect on its own,” said Starkey.

If you’re interested in learning more about acupuncture or acupressure to treat cancer pain, Starkey recommends talking with your oncologist first.

She said it’s best to get a referral for an acupuncturist with experience in treating cancer pain.

Complete results for the study can be found in JAMA Oncology.

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