Health: Acupuncture Among Cancer Survivors

The Story:

A March 2021 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that there are two types of acupuncture therapy that work better than physical therapy, steroids, or the usual pain meds in assisting cancer survivors in dealing with their ongoing muscle and/or joint pain.


Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese healing art, has often been regarded by suspicion in the west, which generally regards it as just another “sugar pill.” The suspicion is heightened by the language in which the Chinese practice comes wrapped: yin and yang; lunar, celestial, and earthly cycles. etc.

Abstracting from such language, the practice at issue is the insertion of hair-thin sterilized needles into specific points of the body. It comes in many varieties. One of those discussed in the JAMA report is electroacupuncture, in which the needles are stimulated by electrical charges that stimulate the release of pain-killing chemicals by the body. The other is auricular acupuncture, in which the needles (actually tiny studs) stay in the designated points in the ear for three to four days.

In Pill Form:

There were 145 people in the electroacupuncture group, 143 in the auricular acupuncture group, and 71 receiving standard pain management. The JAMA report concluded, “Both acupuncture groups reported better physical and mental quality of life compared to the usual care group,” using physical therapy, steroids, etc.

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