Dec. 1, 2008 Acupuncture works - but it works equally well with or without needle penetration. This conclusion can be drawn from a treatment study involving cancer patients suffering from nausea during radiotherapy.
Anna Enblom, a physiotherapist and doctoral candidate at the Department of Medicine and Health Sciences at Linköping University and the Vårdal Institute in Sweden, carried out four studies that are now being reported in her doctoral dissertation. The first study involved a group that received ordinary medical treatment for nausea, but not acupuncture. In that group only one quarter of the nauseous patients experienced any relief.
The acupuncture study of 215 patients who were undergoing radiation treatment in the abdomen or pelvic region chose by lot one of these two acupuncture types.
109 received traditional acupuncture, with needles penetrating the skin in particular points. According to ancient Chinese tradition, the needle is twisted until a certain 'needle sensation' arises. The other 106 patients received a simulated acupuncture instead, with a telescopic, blunt placebo needle that merely touches the skin.
The acupuncture was performed by physiotherapists two or three times a week throughout the five-week radiation period.
Afterwards 95 percent of the patients in both groups felt that the acupuncture treatment had helped relieve nausea, and 67 percent had experienced other positive effects such as improved sleep, brighter mood, and less pain.
The final study shows that patients that received traditional or simulated acupuncture felt considerably better than the group that had only received care following ordinary routines. The difference, 37 percent compared with 63 percent of nauseous patients, is statistically significant. On the other hand, there was no difference between the two acupuncture groups.
The effects therefore seem not be due to the traditional acupuncture method, as was previously thought, but rather a result of the increased care the treatment entails. Patients could converse with the physiotherapists, they were touched, and they had extra time for rest and relaxation.
"It is now essential to continue to study what parts of the procedure surrounding acupuncture that reduce nausea and vomiting in order to be able to make use of this in care during radiation treatment", says Anna Enblom.
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