Can the prick of a needle prevent nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy?
One type of acupuncture may relieve vomiting up to 24 hours after a chemotherapy treatment when used along with certain anti-vomiting drugs. Nausea, on the other hand, seems to be relieved best by acupressure, a sort of scaled-back form of acupuncture patients can perform on themselves, concludes a review of studies published in The Cochrane Library.
In the study, researchers found that acupressure, a treatment that applies pressure to particular areas of the body, such as the wrist, significantly helped relieve the symptoms of nausea that are associated with chemotherapy treatment. Because acupressure can be performed on oneself or through the use of special wristbands, the researchers say it presents a safe and inexpensive option for cancer patients.
"If our finding is correct, then acupressure offers a no-cost, convenient, self-administered intervention for chemotherapy patients to reduce nausea," said study author Dr. Jeanette Ezzo, of James P. Swyers Enterprises, a company dedicated to developing new alternative therapies.
The researchers' findings on vomiting relief, however, were a bit more complicated.
Of all forms of acupuncture, it seems that electroacupuncture worked best at reducing post-chemotherapy vomiting when used along with anti-vomiting medications.
While acupuncture is an ancient technique of using thin needles to stimulate the nerves in certain areas of the body to promote overall health, electroacupuncture is a relatively modern form of this technique that delivers a small, continuous pulse of electricity wherever a needle is inserted. The benefit of this type of procedure, say experts, is that the electrical impulse helps to ensure that the correct area of the body is stimulated.
While these results seem promising, researchers are quick to note that the anti-vomiting drugs used in the study were not the most modern. "It is not known if electroacupuncture adds anything to modern drugs," said Ezzo. To prove electroacupuncture's benefits for today's patients, therefore, a further trial needs to occur to see the impact of this procedure in addition to these more modern drugs.
Besides having questionable benefits, electroacupuncture sessions need to be performed by a professional and can be costly, so all cancer patients should ask their doctor before pursuing it or any type of alternative therapy.