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Review of Research on Acupuncture with Radiation Oncology

This is a good review of studies done on the use of acupuncture concomitant with radiation for cancer patients. The upshot is that acupuncture studies show positive effects for conditions such as xerostomia (dry mouth), fatigue, nausea, vomiting and lack of appetite.

(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5514158/)

All studies have shown that acupuncture is associated with better outcome in relieving disorders than the control groups.” This should be a pretty compelling argument to include acupuncture in cancer care plans everywhere. I am very fortunate to be part of the care team at the Winchester Hospital Cancer Care Center and have witnessed firsthand the benefits that acupuncture treatment can provide.

And it’s incredibly safe! “White et al published a cumulative review on acupuncture-related side effects and reported serious side effects at 0.05 per 10,000 patients treated.39 “ Any pharmaceutical intervention with this kind of success and safety record would be included in the standard treatment protocol. Why acupuncture isn’t more widely offered and covered by insurance, which it almost never is, is beyond me.

Insurance coverage is an ongoing battle, but in the meantime, if you or someone you love is involved in the cancer treatment battle, consider acupuncture treatment to help them get through it as comfortably as possible.

To Ice Or Not To Ice? Acupuncture Insights for Treating Pain

To Ice Or Not To Ice? Acupuncture Insights for Treating Pain

If it hurts, put ice on it, right? In medical circles recently, there has been quite a lot of discussion about when to use ice, or even whether to use it at all. Traditionally, in the West we have used ice after an injury because it keeps down inflammation. But lately there has been an argument that this is the wrong approach. When you injure your body, the argument goes, the injured area is supposed to get inflamed because this is how your body begins to heal. People use acupuncture for pain all the time, and the principles of acupuncture treatment give us some useful guidelines for when to use ice.

Interestingly, in Traditional Chinese Medicine ice is almost never used. Pain is thought to be caused by some form of stagnation or obstruction of the flow of body fluids and qi through the area that hurts, and cold things generally cause our bodies to constrict and contract, thereby exacerbating the obstruction to the free flow.

I thought this article was a pretty cogent  argument for the use of ice in acute injuries: https://mikereinold.com/is-icing-really-bad-for-you/

The bottom line is that a lot of the fears about using ice have not been corroborated by experimental evidence. The use of ice within the first 48 hours after an injury does not seem to slow down the healing process and can be useful to reduce swelling and pain. After the acute phase of an injury though, ice does little besides temporarily numb the painful site.

Here at the Acupuncture Center of Reading, I treat people with painful injuries, both chronic and acute, all the time, and I think the insights of Traditional Chinese Medicine are a little more nuanced when deciding how to treat pain. The effectiveness of acupuncture for pain conditions is very well documented (http://acupuncturecenterma.com/2018/06/08/acupuncture-for-pain/). I think that ice can be very useful and provide good relief for acute injuries. However I also see older people with chronic low back pain, for example, for whom icing is not helpful.

The principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine tell us that as we age all of us experience a diminishing of the energetic fire that enlivens us and gives us the energy we use to do our daily work, our yang qi. This is a natural and normal process, but it leaves us feeling colder and less energetic as we age. Another common element of the aging process is that we tend to suffer conditions of stagnation and obstruction more easily. So for older people with chronic low back pain, ice will often only make them colder and will increase the stagnation that is a large contributing factor to their pain.  For these people, I find that heat usually offers them far more relief than cold. I often urge people to try both and see for themselves which makes them feel better, because neither approach will injure them further. But I know that in most cases heat will offer greater relief.

Acupuncture is a great therapy for these long term, painful conditions also, because the whole idea of acupuncture is to use the needles like little lightning rods to conduct the qi through the areas where it has stagnated in order to reestablish the free and unimpeded flow of qi and body fluids.  Most of my treatments for chronic pain, especially in older people, involve heat and massage also, the goal being to relax the musculature, get the blood and qi circulating again and allow the body to get its own healing resources to the injured area.

Acupuncture for Pain

I can’t tell you how many people in some sort of chronic pain have come into my office saying, “I hope this works. I’ve tried everything else and you’re my last hope.” It drives me crazy because this is so backward. Acupuncture is safe, effective and way less expensive than surgery and pharmaceutical approaches to pain management. Acupuncture should be one of the first interventions that doctors think of when presented with a case involving pain, not the last. However, there is some hope.

The American Pain Society and the FDA Endorse Acupuncture for Pain

We’re slowly seeping into the mainstream for the management of pain. As we should be! This is from the American Pain Society: “Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic musculoskeletal, headache, and osteoarthritis pain. Treatment effects of acupuncture persist over time and cannot be explained solely in terms of placebo effects. Referral for a course of acupuncture treatment is a reasonable option for a patient with chronic pain” (American Pain Society article). They came to this conclusion after completing a meta-analysis of acupuncture pain research involving 20,827 patients. I mean, come on now, the evidence is pretty clear. Now our own FDA recognizes the effectiveness, safety and cost effectiveness of acupuncture for pain. The FDA, “now recommends that doctors get information about chiropractic care and acupuncture as therapies that might help patients avoid prescription opioids.”
the (FDA Regulations).

The Acupuncture Center of Reading has Treated Pain Conditions for 25 Years

When I was on the faculty of the New England School of Acupuncture in the 1990s, I used to tell my students to develop specialties in whatever facet of health care they were drawn to, but they had better learn to treat pain, because that was what was going to walk in their doors. Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complete system of health care that has ways of working with the entire spectrum of health concerns that afflict us. And as with all health strategies though, it is better at some things than others. Pain is one area where acupuncture has proven its worth. And when you think of the severe potential downsides of other approaches like pain medications and surgery, I applaud every step forward that we take toward recognizing the value of acupuncture for people in pain.

Acupuncture for Anxiety and Depression

Acupuncture for Depression and Anxiety

I am often asked whether acupuncture can help with anxiety and depression and am happy to report that it can have a very profound effect.

A Recipe for Anxiety and Depression

Few would disagree that we live in a culture that has gone off-the-rails in terms of stress. Gone are the days when you could go to work at 9:00a, leave at 5:00p, have dinner with your family at 6:00p and relax in the evening till bedtime, while still being able to afford a nice home and raise a family.

Now, almost everybody has to work absurdly long hours just to stay one step ahead of the bill collectors and not be looked at askance by coworkers as a slacker. We are almost required to work to exhaustion just to meet the minimum requirements of many jobs.  Add to that the increasing isolation and lack of community that many of us experience and it’s almost a perfect recipe for anxiety.

Anxiety and Depression of the Mind and Body

Fortunately, there are proven strategies we can establish and maintain for a sense of harmony and balance within ourselves even in the midst of this crazy world. Acupuncture and the insights of traditional Chinese medicine are powerful tools to combat the anxiety and depression so rampant in our society.

It is so commonly understood that it is almost trite these days to talk about the “mind-body connection.” Yet fundamentally, this is how we work with these issues with acupuncture. It is easy to see that when you relax your mind, by going on vacation, taking a walk, or getting together with dear friends, your body naturally relaxes as well. (I often wish that I could prescribe for my patients who suffer from chronic headaches, digestive upset, and other stress related problems, a month vacation in the Caribbean. I have no doubt that many of these issues would disappear.)

How Acupuncture Helps Depression and Anxiety

Less obvious perhaps is that when you relax your body, your mind will also relax.  We use acupuncture to break down the blockages and constraints that inhibit the free flow of energy within our bodies will allow them to relax, and facilitate the smooth and natural flow of all our systems.  An inevitable result of the ease we establish in the body is an increased sense of ease in our minds.

Acupuncture cannot remove the causes of depression and anxiety in our lives. We all have to work at our jobs, negotiate sometimes difficult relationships with our families and acquaintances and work on those elements of our own personalities that need to develop and grow. However, if acupuncture can help us gain a sense of comfort and ease in our bodies and our minds, we can work on these anxieties with greater clarity, more focused attention, and a calmer and more relaxed attitude.