Studies have shown that using a combination of acupuncture, a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) technique, and Western medicine results in better outcomes than using only one. Acupuncture can play an important role in pain management, functional improvement, overall wellness and prevention for cancer and other conditions. Here is some advice for receiving alternative treatment options.
Acupuncture is the most commonly used system of healing in the world as it is one of the oldest systems of medicine dating back 4,000 years. It is generally safe, painless, and well-tolerated by patients. However, it is always important to speak with your doctor before starting any supplemental or alternative treatment plans.
A recent study available through Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York supports the efficacy of acupuncture in the following areas: treatment of pancreatic cancer pain, hot flashes in breast cancer patients, post-thoracotomy pain, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), pain and dysfunction after neck dissection, and for xerostomia (dry mouth).
Acupuncture is currently being utilized in the treatment of cancer patients for pain management, fatigue and reduction of postoperative and chemotherapy-induced side effects. It is frequently used to increase saliva production in patients suffering from xerostomia which is commonly experienced by cancer patients following radiation of the head and neck regions. Acupuncture also alleviated joint pain and stiffness, reduced stress and improved overall physical and mental well-being in patients.
Although it is not uncommon for patients to experience improvement very quickly, it often takes several treatments to create long-term results. Patients are usually treated once or twice per week for six to eight weeks with continued treatments as necessary. The number of treatment sessions will vary from patient to patient dependent upon other variables the patient may be dealing with (insomnia, digestive disorders, emotional strains and stressors etc.) In certain instances, increase in salivary flow can be seen as soon as the first visit and the duration of improvement typically increases as the treatments continue, while other patients may need several treatments to receive an improvement.
While acupuncture can alleviate certain symptoms within days or even hours, particular conditions may require continuous treatments in order to achieve long-term results. Have patience and continue long-term treatment.
TCM stems from the belief that what happens to one part of the body affects every other part of the body. Organs and organ systems are viewed as interconnected structures that work together to create balance and harmony in the body. TCM recognizes that true healing is a multi-dimensional process. The mind, body, spirit and emotions must all be focal points during the healing journey. All of these aspects and their relationships are mapped out in time-tested theories (Theory of Yin/Yang, the Theory of Qi or vital energy, Meridian Theory and the Five-Element Theory) that form the foundation of TCM and have been used to understand, diagnose and effectively treat health problems and conditions in continuous practice for thousands of years.
Through a differential diagnosis, acupuncturists are able to determine a syndrome or organ-system-specific cause of symptoms. The overall goal of treatment is to provide the patient with long-term relief by addressing the underlying problem and not simply masking the current symptom. This is often referred to as treating the "root vs. the branch" or the "core vs. the symptom." While addressing the patient’s complaint(s) or disorder(s), acupuncturists offer symptomatic relief while working on and addressing the root of the problem or core issue(s) to prevent or decrease the likelihood of the symptoms returning.
The focus of acupuncture treatments is to get patients into what is known as the "wellness phase" where the patient’s protocol will be dictated by how the overall patient response is. Meaning, once the patient reaches this wellness phase, if they feel good for 15 days, we want to see them in 15 days, if the patient feels good for 30 days, we want to see the patient in 30 days etc., ultimately coming in for treatments and follow-ups for overall maintenance and well being.
There are many benefits to utilizing acupuncture therapy along with traditional Western medical treatment. Further research, education and clinical trials are being conducted to continue the validation and integration of acupuncture and integrative oncology treatments in conjunction with conventional treatments currently available.
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