Acupuncture has been used for centuries to help identify imbalances and guide patients towards more optimal health. It stimulates the natural healing process of the body and aids in restoring health and balance. As such, more and more studies are identifying acupuncture as a safe and effective therapy in the treatment of cancer for the following reasons:

Reduced nausea, vomiting and fatigue associated with chemotherapy. According to the National Cancer Institute, there is strong evidence that acupuncture can relieve nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy.

Pain relief from incisions. Studies looking at pain control using acupuncture suggest that it may help reduce the pain associated with surgery, reducing the amount of pain medications needed and consequently some of the side effects of those pain medicines.

Neuropathy. Acupuncture can improve circulation in the body leading to regeneration of damaged nerves (neuropathy) and improved healing of scar tissue.

Improved digestion. Radiation treatments may lead to pain and swelling in the mouth and throat, making it difficult to swallow. Some patients lose their sense of taste as well. Acupuncture has been shown to decrease these side effects, allowing the patient to swallow, eat and drink more normally. Acupuncture can also help restore appetite and regulate patterns of elimination.

Assist in stress management. There are specific acupuncture points that help the nervous system relax when there is a constant feeling of anxiety or adrenaline. Cancer patients who use acupuncture report feeling calmer, happier, more mentally alert and emotionally stable, all contributing to improved sleep.

Another modality used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat cancer is moxibustion which consists of burning dried mugwort (moxa) on particular points on the body. This therapy plays an important role in the traditional medical systems of Tibet, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Mongolia as well.

Practitioners use moxa to warm regions and meridian points with the intention of stimulating circulation and inducing a smoother flow of blood and Qi (energy). It is claimed that moxibustion mitigates against cold and dampness in the body and can even serve to turn breech babies. Practitioners claim moxibustion to be especially effective in treating chronic conditions and gerontology, adding new energy to the body by addressing both excess and deficient conditions.

There are several methods of moxibustion including direct scarring, direct non-scarring, and indirect moxibustion. Direct scarring moxibustion places a small cone of moxa on the skin at an acupuncture point and burns it until the skin blisters, which then scars after it heals. Direct non-scarring moxibustion removes the burning moxa before the skin burns enough to scar. Indirect moxibustion holds a cigar made of moxa near the acupuncture point to heat the skin, or holds it on an acupuncture needle inserted in the skin to heat the needle.

Practitioners may use acupuncture needles made of various materials in combination with moxa, depending on the direction of Qi flow they wish to stimulate.

Dr. Lee is founding owner of Advanced Acupuncture & Healing, Inc. in Rancho Mirage and may be reached at (760) 832.7585.

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