November Newsletter: Acupuncture can ease many common medical side effects

Happy pair of acupuncture needles

Acupuncture Can Ease Many Common Medical Side Effects

Dealing with side effects is one of the worst parts of treatments designed to improve your health. Luckily, it may be possible to relieve troublesome side effects simply by visiting your acupuncturist. Acupuncture is helpful in eliminating or improving many types of side effects, including:

Nausea

Nausea can be caused by medications or may occur as a side effect of your disease or condition. Acupuncture eases nausea in several ways and may:

  • Make the Vomiting Center of the Brain Less Sensitive
  • Moderate the Vomiting Reflex.
  • Decrease Stomach Acid Production
  • Control Stomach Rhythms
  • Stop the Release of Chemicals That Trigger Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting can be a problem if you're taking opioids or prescription pain medication, dealing with morning sickness, undergoing cancer treatment, or suffering many other conditions. Vomiting after surgery can be dangerous, as it can break open stitches, cause dehydration or even result in vomit being aspirated into your lungs. Aspiration increases the risk of pneumonia and can cause choking.

Women and people who've had breast, abdominal, or ear, nose and throat surgery are most likely to experience post-operative nausea and vomiting, according to a research review published in Frontiers in Medicine. The review reported that acupuncture at the P6 acupoint is helpful in preventing post-discharge nausea and vomiting, in addition to easing pain. The P6 acupoint is located on the inner wrist.

Pain

Whether you've had surgery or are living with a chronic condition like arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease, pain can be a problem. Acupuncture relieves pain by flooding your body with serotonin and endorphins, hormones that act as natural pain relievers.

Insomnia

When you don't feel well, it can be difficult to sleep for more than a few hours at a time. Acupuncture improves sleep quality and may help you stay asleep longer. Treatments increase the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep/wake cycle. Endorphins and serotonin, the same hormones that ease pain, also help you relax, which may make it easier to sleep.

Inflammation

The inflammatory response helps your body heal after surgery or an injury. While inflammation is helpful initially, it can cause pain and stiffness if it continues too long. Acupuncture turns on nerve pathways that decrease inflammation and also triggers the release of chemicals that quiet the immune system.

Cancer Treatment Side Effects

In addition to relieving nausea and vomiting, acupuncture offers several other benefits for cancer patients. According to a systematic review published in the Journal of Cancer, acupuncture is helpful in treating fatigue, indigestion, dry mouth, depression, and anxiety.

Acupuncture may also relieve hand-foot syndrome symptoms caused by chemotherapy and could dull joint pain during breast cancer treatment. Aromatase inhibitors used to treat hormone receptor-positive breast cancer cause severe joint pain and stiffness in more than 50% of women who take them, according to researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. During their research study, women who received acupuncture experienced a two-point decrease in pain scores.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Pain relievers and other medications often cause digestive problems ranging from diarrhea to gas to constipation. Acupuncture balances the gastrointestinal system, relieving many of these side effects. Acupuncture can also be helpful if you have an endoscopy scheduled to investigate the cause of your digestive complaints. During an endoscopy, your doctor inserts a thin lighted scope containing a miniature camera into your mouth. The scope sends pictures of your throat, esophagus and stomach to a digital screen.

Unfortunately, some people experience nausea, vomiting, coughing and other side effects when an endoscopy is performed using a local anesthetic. According to a research study published in the Annals of Palliative Medicine, electro-acupuncture helps ease these side effects and make the procedure more comfortable. Electro-acupuncture involves attaching a gentle electrical current to acupuncture needles. The current enhances the effects of the treatment and can make it more effective in some cases.

Are you struggling with side effects? Acupuncture could improve your comfort. Get in touch with our office to discuss your side effects and schedule an appointment.

Sources:

PubMed: Acupuncture Increases Nocturnal Melatonin Secretions and Reduces Insomnia and Anxiety: a Preliminary Study, 2004

Acupuncture Today: Acupuncture for Nausea and Vomiting

Journal of Cancer: The Therapeutic Effects of Acupuncture and Electroacupuncture on Cancer-Related Symptoms and Side Effects, 10/11/2021

Frontiers in Medicine: Alternative Therapies for the Prevention of Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting, 12/16/2015

Health CMi: Acupuncture Reverses Chemotherapy Side Effects, 3/31/2019

Annals of Palliative Medicine: The Effectiveness of Electro-Acupuncture Combined with Dyclonine Hydrochloride in Relieving the Side Effects of Gastroscopy: A Controlled Trial, 3/2021

Columbia University Irving Medical Center: Acupuncture Reduces Joint Pain from Breast Cancer Treatment, 7/10/2018



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