Acupuncture Eases Pain, Promotes Healing

More and more, Acupuncture is making in-roads into the care and handling of patients who have received Western style medical treatment. In case after case, the benefits of Acupuncture as an individual treatment or as a treatment in conjunction with other forms of patient care are coming into use by the medical profession.

One of the latest studies where the benefits of Acupuncture have been tested involved a group of cancer patients who had been the subject of a surgical procedure to the area of their neck. The type of surgery the patients received is known as neck dissection. The degree of surgery can vary in severity and scope, but it can involve the full removal of lymph glands on one side of the neck.

“Chronic pain and shoulder mobility problems are common after such surgery, adversely affecting quality of life as well as employability for certain occupations,” said Dr. David Pfister who is the Chief of Head and Neck Oncology Services at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. “Unfortunately, available conventional methods of treatment for pain and dysfunction following neck surgery often have limited benefits, leaving much room for improvement.”

Researchers at the center wanted to find out if Acupuncture could play a significant role in helping with the conditions that patients generally suffer after their surgical procedure. These symptoms include pain, dysfunction and dry mouth and are often experienced by patients who have had neck dissection surgery.

A total of 70 patients were involved in this study. Participants were randomly chosen to receive Acupuncture treatment or more traditional forms of follow-up including physical therapy exercises and the use of anti-inflammatory drugs. Treatment on all of the persons commenced at least three months after their surgery and the completion of radiation treatments. The Acupuncture group received four sessions of treatment over a four week period.

What the researchers found was that 39 percent of the patients who received Acupuncture improved in both mobility and pain reduction compared to only 7 percent of the group who received the usual medical care. An additional benefit that has been reported in similar studies is that the condition of dry mouth has also improved in a large number of the participants.

Dr. Barrie Cassileth, Ph.D., is the Chief of Integrative Medicine Service at the Cancer Center and had this to say about the results: “Like any other treatment, Acupuncture does not work for everyone, but it can be extraordinarily helpful for many. It does not treat illness, but Acupuncture can control a number of distressing symptoms such as shortness of breath, anxiety and depression, chronic fatigue, pain, neuropathy and osteoarthritis.”

The full benefits of Acupuncture are yet to be explored and realized by the medical community, but it is very encouraging to see that drug-free means of healing are being integrated into Western treatment.

Source: The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “Acupuncture Reduces Pain and Dysfunction in Head and Neck Caner Patients after Neck Dissection.” May 2008.

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