Managing Pain: Acupuncture as a Complementary Treatment
Posted on August 20, 2013
What was the first thing you asked when told you’d have to be on chemo? What will the side effects be? How much is taking this cancer down going to take me down in the process? And your doctor probably warned you: You may experience some pain, anything from headaches, muscle pain or stomach pain to pain from nerve damage, like burning, numbness, or shooting pains. Splendid.
And cancer patients aren’t alone in this. You might be surprised to know that according to a national survey through the National Institute of Health, more than one quarter of all Americans have recently experienced pain lasting longer than one day. 24+ hours!
So what do you do? Some may pay their doctor another visit and try a ‘script to remedy the pain. Others have turned to integrative therapies for relief (check out our Integrative Medicine webinar, too). Among the most common integrative therapies is acupuncture, which has gained popularity in the US in recent years. In fact, roughly 3 million Americans try acupuncture every year.
While scientists continue to study the effectiveness of acupuncture and other integrative treatments, anecdotal evidence has swayed many Americans to give it a whirl, including our very own Jeanne Angalet, a moderator in our My CCA Support Online Community. After experiencing some chemo-related neuropathy, Jeanne decided to give acupuncture a try. Read about her experience and decide for yourself: Could acupuncture be right for you?
“When I first started chemo, someone referred me to an acupuncturist to help with some of the side effects of my treatment. Before I was diagnosed with colon cancer, I had tried acupuncture, and honestly, I wasn’t impressed. Despite my first experience, I opened my mind and jumped in for round two.
Initially, I began my acupuncture appointments to address the neuropathy caused by FOLFOX, a common chemotherapy drug. It wasn’t horrible neuropathy, just a little numbness in my fingers. Since I had read that it can get worse during and after treatment, I wanted to head it off at the pass.
Now, seven years later, I consider myself an acupuncture devotee.
Why, you ask? Well, for starters, I’ve learned that acupuncture can support the organs that get slammed by chemo, like the liver, kidneys, and spleen. I’ve found it excellent for the immune system, too. And, believe it or not, acupuncture has actually helped lighten my spirits when I’ve been in a rut.
I’ve also found that when I experience ‘odd’ or uncommon symptoms, I can bounce them off my acupuncturist and see if he knows what system in my body needs support; then that’s where we focus our efforts that day. For example, there were a few days when I kept bumping my head – it was almost like I forgot my head’s dimensions! From door jams to the low wall over my stairway, I just kept hitting my head in spaces I knew well. He figured out which system needed support, and after that appointment, I didn’t bump my head as much. Voila!
When deciding whether or not to pursue acupuncture, it’s important to keep in mind that it may not be a ‘quick fix’ to a problem. But it can be great for long-term support, like during a course of chemo. As a complementary treatment to Western Medicine, I’ve found it works for me.”
Tell us in the comments: have you tried acupuncture for pain management?
Interested in learning more about keeping your mind, body and soul healthy during treatment? Join us at the CCA National Conference in Miami this October!