The Mechanism of Acupuncture

Chemotherapy is a standard treatment for cancer patients, but it often comes with a range of side effects, with nausea being one of the most debilitating. While there are medications available to manage nausea, many patients seek alternative or complementary therapies to alleviate their symptoms. Acupuncture, an ancient practice rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine, has gained popularity as a potential solution for chemotherapy-induced nausea. In this article, we will explore why chemotherapy patients should consider acupuncture as a viable option for managing their nausea without negatively affecting their cancer treatment.

Research Evidence

Acupuncture, a practice that has been around for thousands of years, involves the insertion of specially fabricated thin needles into specific points on the body. These acupuncture points, also known as acupoints, are carefully selected based on the individual’s condition and are believed to be connected by pathways called meridians. According to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), these meridians are essential channels through which energy, known as Qi, flows throughout the body. When the flow of Qi becomes blocked or imbalanced, it can lead to various health issues, including nausea.

Benefits of Acupuncture for Chemotherapy Patients

The concept behind acupuncture for nausea is to rebalance and unblock the meridians, thus removing the root cause of the symptom. By inserting needles into specific acupoints along the meridians associated with digestion and the stomach, acupuncture aims to restore the natural flow of Qi and promote overall well-being.

1. Effectiveness

In addition to its effect on the meridians, acupuncture also stimulates the nervous system. The insertion of needles triggers the release of various neurotransmitters and hormones, including endorphins and natural painkillers. These substances help alleviate discomfort and induce a sense of relaxation and well-being.

2. Fewer Side Effects

Furthermore, acupuncture has been found to influence the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals play crucial roles in regulating nausea and vomiting. By modulating their levels, acupuncture can help restore balance to the body’s biochemical processes, leading to a reduction in nausea symptoms.

3. Holistic Approach


By combining the rebalancing of meridians, the stimulation of the nervous system, and the modulation of neurotransmitters, acupuncture offers a multifaceted approach to addressing nausea and improving overall health.

While scepticism is understandable when it comes to alternative therapies, scientific studies have provided substantial evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture in managing chemotherapy-induced nausea. A meta-analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine reviewed 11 randomised controlled trials involving over 1,000 cancer patients, examining the effects of acupuncture on nausea and vomiting. The analysis revealed that acupuncture was significantly more effective than standard anti-nausea medications in reducing both acute and delayed chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Moreover, acupuncture has shown promise in managing anticipatory nausea, a phenomenon that occurs when patients develop conditioned responses to chemotherapy treatments. The anxiety and stress associated with previous experiences can trigger nausea even before the actual treatment begins. By addressing the underlying psychological and emotional factors, acupuncture can help break the cycle of anticipatory nausea, providing relief to patients before they undergo chemotherapy.

These research findings not only validate the experiences of countless patients who have found relief through acupuncture but also highlight the potential benefits of integrating acupuncture into comprehensive cancer care.

When it comes to managing chemotherapy-induced nausea, acupuncture has shown remarkable effectiveness as a complementary therapy. The research evidence strongly supports the use of acupuncture alongside conventional treatments, offering cancer patients a higher chance of reducing and controlling their nausea symptoms during chemotherapy.

For instance, a study conducted at a leading cancer centre examined the impact of acupuncture on chemotherapy-induced nausea. The results were striking: 70% of patients who received acupuncture alongside their chemotherapy reported a significant reduction in nausea, compared to only 37% of patients who relied solely on standard anti-nausea medications. These findings underscore the potential of acupuncture to provide substantial relief and improve the quality of life for chemotherapy patients.

One of the notable advantages of acupuncture as a nausea management option for chemotherapy patients is its minimal side effects. This is particularly crucial for individuals already dealing with a multitude of side effects from their cancer treatments and a high daily oral medication load.

Unlike many anti-nausea medications, acupuncture is generally well-tolerated and does not produce undesirable effects. Patients often experience a sense of calm and relaxation during acupuncture sessions, without experiencing drowsiness or mental fog, which can be common side effects of certain anti-nausea drugs. By avoiding these unwanted side effects, patients can receive acupuncture treatment and continue with their daily activities without significant disruption to their routine.

Acupuncture takes a comprehensive and holistic approach to healing, addressing not only the physical symptoms but also the emotional and psychological aspects of nausea. Cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, can take a toll on patients’ mental well-being, leading to increased anxiety and emotional distress. Acupuncture sessions provide a nurturing and supportive environment, where patients can find relief from nausea while also addressing their emotional needs.

Moreover, acupuncture sessions often incorporate relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises and meditation, which further promote a sense of calm and alleviate nausea-related distress. These practices not only provide immediate relief but also contribute to enhancing overall well-being, improving sleep quality, and reducing anxiety levels. By taking a holistic approach, acupuncture helps patients achieve a more balanced and harmonious state of being.

Considering the effectiveness, minimal side effects, and holistic approach offered by acupuncture, it emerges as a valuable option for chemotherapy patients dealing with nausea. By integrating acupuncture into their treatment plan, patients can experience enhanced symptom management, improved emotional well-being, and a more positive treatment experience overall.

Chemotherapy-induced nausea can significantly impact the quality of life for cancer patients. While medications are available to manage these symptoms, acupuncture offers a complementary approach that is effective, safe, and well-tolerated. By addressing the root causes of nausea and promoting overall well-being, acupuncture can provide much-needed relief and support during the challenging journey of chemotherapy. If you are a chemotherapy patient experiencing nausea, it may be worth considering acupuncture as a part of your treatment plan. Consult with your healthcare provider or an experienced acupuncturist to explore if acupuncture is suitable for you.

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