Once considered by Western medicine as a wacky approach to healing, acupuncture is now recognized by physicians (and most health care insurers) as a credible and effective treatment for symptoms of many types of health issues.
Studies show that acupuncture can relieve numerous types of pain, including back pain, chronic myofascial (facial) pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis in the knee, and even pain in the muscles and joints. A new study from the Mayo Clinic has found that acupuncture effectively reduces anxiety and pain after mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery.
Twenty breast cancer patients who had mastectomy with or without breast reconstruction participated. Needles were applied by a licensed acupuncturist with a Master’s degree level of training. For purposes of the study, a set protocol of 10 acupuncture points outlined by Traditional Chinese Medicine was used to address post-operative headache, nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal pain, and musculoskeletal pain. Other acupuncture points also induced a calming effect to reduce patient anxiety. All study participants were satisfied with post-op acupuncture and considered it to be worthwhile.
Women who participated in the study were taking either tamoxifen or anastrozole, anti-estrogen therapy to treat breast cancer; these anti-estrogens have a tendency to cause hot flashes, which can be frequent and strong. After 12 treatments over four weeks based on Traditional Korean Medicine acupuncture, all of the study participants reported a 70 to 95 percent reduction of the intensity of hot flashes, and overall, fewer hot flashes. In addition, the total number of hot flashes per patient reduced significantly.
Researchers concluded that acupuncture “significantly improves symptoms of postoperative pain, anxiety, and tension, and demonstrates a trend toward improved postoperative relaxation.” Researchers also noted that “acupuncture can be integrated into a busy postsurgical clinical practice” and “acupuncture may be an important intervention in the postoperative setting for breast cancer patients.”
Study reference: Mallory MJ, Croghan KA, Sandhu NP., et. al. "Acupuncture in the Postoperative Setting for Breast Cancer Patients: A Feasibility Study." The American Journal of Chinese Medicine 43, no. 01 (2015): p. 45-56.