This ancient medical science has been getting results for centuries.
Recently, a growing body of data is pointing to acupuncture’s role helping patients ease the side effects of their cancer treatment. One study of several hundred women with breast cancer found that acupuncture was successful in reducing mental fatigue, pain, and anxiety and depression.
While the origins of this practice involve “energy,” “flow” and “balance,” today neuroscience is helping to pin those concepts down more concretely, showing that acupuncture works by stimulating the nervous system to cause physical changes to the body. These changes act on such symptoms as nausea and vomiting, hot flashes related to hormone treatment, joint pain and physical pain.
Relief with No Side Effects
Acupuncture works by stimulating nerves that release endorphins in the spinal cord and brain that relieve pain. Acupuncture also releases a patient’s serotonin. Serotonin is a pain reliever that can promote a feeling of well-being.
Cancer patients who are treated with acupuncture generally feel calmer, and many of them report less worry and anxiety. In my practice, I’ve seen 97% of my patients obtain a positive result. It’s not magic, but another tool we have to avoid the side effects of treatments and medications.
Although there is skepticism about acupuncture’s medical value, it is recognized by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as an effective method not only in the treatment of cancer, but also a wide variety of other medical problems, such as high and low blood pressure, sciatica, rheumatoid arthritis, sprains, peptic ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.
It also relieves other cancer treatment issues, such as peripheral neuropathy, or tingling, numbness, and dry mouth from radiation therapy.
A Painless Procedure
Following an initial interview with the patient, we develop an individualized treatment plan. Treatment begins with an acupuncturist inserting fine, sterile needles at specific “acupoints” through a person’s skin at specific points on the body to various depths. Needles may be inserted in all areas of the body – even the ears and face, all the way down to the feet, depending on the nature of pain or complaint. The painless treatment stimulates blood flow, while at the same time triggering the body’s production of endorphins, our body’s own natural pain killer.
The needle doesn’t hurt but rather feels like an electrical shock or a little bit of pinching. In the beginning, patients get treated once a week or more. After a month, we coordinate treatments as needed or as long as the chemotherapy treatments last. Our innovative model of care improves quality of life, manages symptoms, helps individuals cope with illness and actively participate in their health and healing.
Although there is no evidence that acupuncture can treat cancer itself, it has been shown to be a complementary therapy for people living with cancer, stimulating the natural healing process of the body and aiding in restoring health and balance.
Dr. Eugenio Jimenez de Castro is a Licensed Acupuncturist at the White Plains Hospital Center for Cancer Care. To make an appointment, please call 914-849-7653.