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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Acupuncture May Lessen Post-Op Pain, Nausea

Study Shows Ancient Chinese Practice Is as Effective as Drugs After Breast Surgery

Less Pain and No Needles continued...

Two hours after surgery, 77% of the women receiving electrostimulation experienced no post-operative nausea or vomiting (PONV), and required no antisickness drugs. That compared with only 64% getting Zofran and 42% of those who relieved neither treatment.

At 24 hours following surgery, there was still no PONV in 73% among those getting electroacupuncture, compared with 52% of those getting the Zofran and 38% receiving neither treatment.

In questioning the patients, Gan's team also learned that those who were treated with electrode stimulation on P6 reported significantly less overall pain and a higher satisfaction level following surgery than the others.

The Point of Acupuncture

Acupuncture involves placing thin needles into the skin at specific points believed to connect with 12 main and eight secondary pathways called meridians. Piercing into these meridians, or periodically twisting the needle, is said to stimulate the flow of energy (or qi, pronounced "chee") to better regulate spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance influenced by the opposing forces of yin and yang (negative and positive energy). Sometimes, tiny electrodes are attached to the needles to better stimulate qi with a tiny jolt of electricity, a more invasive version of what Gan's team did.

Technically, this electrostimulation is not acupuncture, because no needles were used to pierce the skin, says Barrie R. Cassileth, PhD, author of the widely respected Alternative Medicine Handbook: The Complete Reference Guide to Alternative and Complementary Therapies and chief of integrative medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, which runs an acupuncture research center.

"What this study has done is do away with the needle and just stimulate the acupuncture point in a randomized clinical trial; that's an advantage to people who may be fearful of needles, and important to medical research," says Cassileth, who was not involved in Gan's research. "What this paper does is increase our confidence on the feasibility and efficacy of using acupuncture-like techniques in treatment for a variety of symptoms."

In addition to nausea and some types of pain, including headaches and menstrual cramps, acupuncture has been shown in various studies to help treat asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, and addiction to tobacco, drugs, and alcohol.

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