Can Acupuncture Help Relieve Pain And Nausea Resulting From Chemotherapy?

Anna Ferrari M.D., B.S., NYU Langone Medical Center

March 16, 2009 -- Question: Can acupuncture help relieve pain and nausea resulting from chemotherapy?

Answer: Certainly as a medical oncologist, I'm not an expert in acupuncture and I would want to make two statements. One is that acupuncture has no role in the treatment of cancer per say. I think that's quite clear but sometimes the messages get a little confused. With regards to help in the symptoms that may be associated with chemotherapy, there seems to be some studies suggesting that indeed it may relieve the vomiting associated with chemotherapy but not so much the nausea. In general we use these extreme cases where our regular and numerous medications to control nausea and vomiting are not effective. But there is some suggestion that in those cases may help.

With regards to pain in general, it is unclear that for overall pain related to bone pain, acupuncture has a role. But it may be in some specific areas of pain where there are some reports that maybe contributing to amelioration of symptoms. But the data is certainly not strong enough that we would advise on a regular basis to get acupuncture to relieve pain. We do recommend a number of pain medications and approaches and that certainly help patients enormously. But again, I think it's up to you and an informed decision as to whether or not you pursue that venue, if no other means have helped.