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Acupuncture has been practiced in China and other Asian world for over 4,000 years. In China, it is a part of traditional medical knowledge and is commonly practiced along with other treatment modalities.
Acupuncture is a complementary therapy which is used to treat a wide range of illnesses, however, with cancer patients its primary use is pain management and nausea brought on by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It may also be used to improve patient's quality of life (weight loss, anxiety, depression, insomnia, poor appetite and diarrhoea).
Acupuncture has several techniques. The traditional acupuncture techniques include:
In addition to classical acupuncture techniques, other techniques have been developed and are sometimes used to help cancer patients cope with the symptoms they experience. These include:
What is the philosophy behind acupuncture?
The philosophy of acupuncture is based on the view that the human body must be perceived and treated as a whole and as part of nature; health is the result of harmony among bodily functions and between the body and nature, and disease occurs when this harmony is disrupted. And thus, acupuncture is used to restore the state of harmony. It is closely connected with Chinese meridian theory. Meridians are channels which form a network in the body through which qi (vital energy) flows. Blocked qi ( by tissue injury, tumour) causes pain or illness. The purpose of acupuncture is to restore the flow of this vital energy - qi, to re-open the meridians which results in relieving the patient's symptoms.
Can acupuncture help cancer patients?
Clinical trials have proven that acupuncture can reduce nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy treatment. Acupuncture can also be used to relieve pain and improve patient's immune system. People who use acupuncture say that they feel more relaxed and it helps them to feel generally more healthy. However, there is no scientific evidence that acupuncture helps in any way with preventing or curing cancer.
What does the treatment involve?
First of all you have to find a qualified acupuncturist. You can do so by clicking on one of the following links (www.aacp.uk.com, www.acupuncture.org.uk ). By contacting them you can get a list of acupuncturists in your area. It is vital that the person who treats you is qualified and properly trained. They should also have some experience with treating patients with cancer.
On your first visit, you will be asked questions about your general health condition, medical history and lifestyle. You should always tell your acupuncturist about any health problems and medications you take so he can decide whether or not acupuncture is the right complementary treatment for you.
If he decides you are a suitable candidate, you will have fine needles inserted into relevant acupuncture points just under your skin. There are 365 acupuncture points on the human body, but not all of them are used frequently. Most practitioners use about 4 - 10 points in a single session. The needles should not cause any pain, although you might feel a needling sensation accompanied by feeling of heaviness, numbness, or tightness.
Length and frequency vary according to the condition being treated. Typically, two or three sessions per week are recommended initially and may decrease to once a week after a few weeks of continuous treatment.
Side effects of acupuncture
Acupuncture does not normally have any side effects. Occasionally, patients may feel dizzy, may have slight bleeding at the insertion point of the needle, or may experience some slight bruising around the acupoint.
It is a good idea to ask how much a session will cost you before you book it and to get some idea of how frequently you may need the therapy. Some complementary therapies can be very expensive if used over a long period of time. Some hospitals and cancer support groups offer complementary therapies free or for a small charge. It is advisable to find out about such institutions before you book a session with an expensive therapist.