Many people are surprised to hear that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are keys to improving health and quality of life for cancer patients. Acupuncture is great for treating and preventing pain, and it will help put an end to daily doses of ibuprofen and other pain medications. An added bonus is that there are no negative side effects.
Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, acupuncture, and proper nutrition can help other cancer-related symptoms, as well as side effects of Western treatments, including nausea/vomiting, fatigue, weakened immunity, stress, anxiety, pain, bruising, post-operative swelling, hair loss, anemia, skin issues, hot flashes, digestive disorders, loss of appetite, and detoxification/elevated liver enzymes.
A lot of people ask me how acupuncture works in general and how it reduces pain. Acupuncture reduces inflammation, stimulates nerve conduction, increases blood circulation, releases endorphins, and relaxes muscle tightness and spasm.
Quite often, pain gets overlooked or undertreated because the focus is on treating the cancer. Many of my patients also frequently ask why so many cancer patients experience pain to varying degrees while others don’t experience any pain at all. The level of discomfort depends on many factors, such as the type of cancer, the stage of the disease, and the patient’s tolerance. Pain in cancer patients can result from the following:
-Tumor putting pressure on a nerve
-Blocked blood vessels causing poor circulation
-Bone fracture due to metastasis
-Psychological or emotional distress
-Anemia leading to lack of nourishment to muscles and tissues
-Side effects from Western cancer treatments
Thirty percent of cancer patients experience pain, and up to 90 percent of patients with advanced cancer experience severe pain. As many as 50 percent of patients may be undertreated for cancer pain, yet not all cancer patients feel pain, and pain is rarely a sign of early cancer. No matter what the cause of discomfort, if you are experiencing pain, muscle tightness and spasms, numbness, and loss of muscle strength, acupuncture will help.
Cancers that are more typically painful include tumors of the bone and the organs of the abdomen. Cancers of the blood, such as leukemia or lymphoma, rarely cause any pain.
Pain can also increase due to the emotional stressors related to cancer or any chronic illness—fear, financial worries, or feelings of isolation. How a patient emotionally handles their illness and gets support does affect pain levels and threshold.
Studies at the National Institutes of Health on the benefits of acupuncture on the immune system of cancer patients showed that it improved immune system response and reduced pain levels. In one study, a majority of patients were able to stop taking drugs for pain relief or reduce their dosages. Several clinical trials have shown that acupuncture reduces nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, surgery, anesthesia, and morning sickness.
Another added benefit is that nutritional and herbal support boosts immune response in cancer patients, along with minimizing the immune and white blood cell suppression that occurs with most chemotherapeutic agents.
For those of you seeking support in pain management, cancer prevention or the prevention of a reoccurrence, please find a qualified acupuncturist or herbalist. Being free from illness is how we’re meant to live. Being proactive in regard to your health will naturally make you feel better too.
Live natural. Live well.
Heather Lounsbury, L.Ac., an animal rights activist for 25 years, has been in private practice for over 15 years as an acupuncturist, herbalist, nutritionist, and Reiki master. At her clinic in Santa Monica she treats a variety of ailments, specializing in pain management, gynecology, mental health and addiction, & digestive disorders. Her patients range from newborns to the elderly, celebrities to college students. Her weekly radio show “Live Natural Live Well” covers a wide variety of health topics, as well as how you can get more involved in your community and saving the planet. As a well-respected physician, Heather’s unique holistic approach to healing encompasses all aspects of her patients’ needs, allowing for the best possible results.