Acupuncture & Cancer Pain

Treating pain can be difficult, regardless of its origin, but treating cancer pain can be particularly tricky because it often has multiple causes.

According to Paley, et. al.: “Moderate to severe pain is experienced by 40% of individuals with early or intermediate stage cancer and 90% of individuals with advanced cancer. Up to 70% of all patients with cancer pain do not receive adequate pain relief, diminishing their quality of life in terms of both physical and psychological well-being.”

Tumors can compress structures, nerves can become irritated, inflammation multiplies, bones and organs can be taxed in their response to tumors or therapies – each pain is complex and often will often be prescribed a new therapy or drug in response. 

But, acupuncture provides an accessible and safe alternative to pain management without the need of added pharmaceuticals.

In a recent position paper published by the research group Evidence Based Acupuncture, a literature review showed that many studies found a moderate effect size of acupuncture on cancer-related pain, and concluded that: “…acupuncture is effective in relieving cancer related pain, particularly malignancy-related and surgery induced pain.”

Here at Maryville Acupuncture, our practitioners utilize their years of experience treating pain of all sorts.

Each visit, your acupuncturist will assess the quality, intensity, duration and frequency of your pain, as well as your current treatment regimens with your oncologist and other physicians.

We strive to be another source of excellent care as part of your integrated healthcare team.

Resources:

“Acupuncture as a Therapeutic Treatment for Cancer Pain.” Evidence Based Acupuncture, www.evidencebasedacupuncture.org/acupuncture-cancer-pain/.

Paley, C.A., Johnson, M.I., Tashani, O.A. and Bagnall, A.M., 2011. Acupuncture for cancer pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev1(10).

How Does Acupuncture Work For Pain?

We hear a lot about how acupuncture can be helpful in treating all types of pain – back pain, knee pain, headaches, menstrual cramps – but how does it work?

Acupuncturists use many tools, but the most common are acupuncture needles. Acupuncture needles are small, thin hair-like sterile single use needles inserted into specific areas on the body.

Acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system. This, in turn, releases chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These biochemical changes may stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.

Whether we’re treating the acute pain of a sprained ankle or the chronic pain of a bulging disc, we know that acupuncture treats pain in three ways:

1. Neurologic Disruption

Your body processes the stimulation from acupuncture using the same part of the nervous system that transmits pain. By sending different signals – such as the message your body receives from the insertion of an acupuncture needle – your acupuncturist can “disrupt” the pain messages transmitted from body to brain and help decrease your sensation of pain

2. Local Tissue Relaxation

When a part of your body is in pain, the muscles surrounding the painful area often tense to protect and compensate. This can cause additional soreness and decrease the body’s ability to move and heal naturally. These same muscles and tissues will respond to acupuncture stimulation by relaxing, causing decreased pain and easier movement.

3. Decreasing Inflammation

Injury to any tissue causes an increase in inflammation, which in turn, causes increased pain, and can cause swelling and reduced range of motion. Acupuncture activates your innate immunity, which will work to decrease inflammation throughout your body and decrease local and systemic pain.

Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found acupuncture to be effective for over thirty conditions and the list is continuing to grow.

If you have any questions, please call our office, email, or visit our website.