An Ancient Technique for Modern Disease

March 12, 2014 Providence Regional Cancer Partnership

By Angela Tseng, DAOM

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient medical method – it’s been around more than 2500 years. It’s one of several modalities based on traditional Chinese medicine. When there is an impact on your system, whether it’s physical or emotional, your body responds to it. For example, when you have a cold, you might experience a sore throat, runny nose and cough. These are signals your body shows in response to a cold virus.

Based on the observable manifestations, an acupuncturist inserts sterilized, thin needles through the skin at selected acupuncture points. The stimulation the needles create at these points can regulate and balance the flow of energy and promote normal bodily functions.

What can acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture has been used to treat a variety of conditions and illnesses. In 1997, at the National Institute of Health Consensus Conference, acupuncture was deemed a safe and effective treatment for post-op and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting, as well as post-op dental pain in adults. For other conditions – like chronic pain, stroke rehabilitation, addiction and asthma, acupuncture can be useful as an adjunct treatment or as a component of a comprehensive management plan.

Since then, there’s been more research on the use of acupuncture – including in the field of oncology.

What is the role of acupuncture in cancer care?

Cancer symptoms and the side effects of treatment vary from patient to patient. Traditionally, providers prescribe medications to manage these symptoms. If your treatment center offers integrative cancer care, you may have access to other modalities, such as nutrition, naturopathic care and acupuncture.

Acupuncture is used as an addition to traditional treatments to manage symptoms like cancer-related pain, nausea, vomiting, neuropathy, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, hot flashes, dry mouth (Xerostomia) or low white blood counts caused by chemotherapy.

What to expect during an acupuncture session

First, an acupuncturist will gather your signs and symptoms through interview, palpation and observation, and then formulate a personalized treatment plan – which may involve weekly acupuncture. Like all treatments, the frequency and duration of acupuncture sessions will vary from person to person. So, be sure to maintain an open line of communication with your care team to make the decision that’s best for you.

Based on the acupuncturist’s assessments, you’ll receive needling at various points on your body during each session. Being poked by a needle doesn’t sound appealing? Don’t worry. The inserting of the needles through the skin truly causes very little discomfort.

Needles can be stimulated by the practitioner or with electrical stimulations and you may experience a moment of heavy or dull sensation, tingling or numbness. This is called De-Qi. The needles remain in place for 15 to 30 minutes. Many people find the treatment to be relaxing. Cupping, Chinese style massage (Tuina), dietary or exercise recommendations can also be part of the treatment plan.

Local resources

Acupuncture is offered at these treatment centers:

Greater Burbank area

Eastern Washington (greater Spokane area) 
Northwest Washington (greater Everett area) 
Southwest Washington (Aberdeen, Centralia and Olympia)

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