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Complementary medicine is used by hospitals and health organizations alongside traditional medical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy because studies show the effectiveness is multiplied when cancer is fought from several directions.
Why Use Acupuncture to Fight Cancer:
- Helps to minimize pain caused by cancer
- Manages the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy such as vomiting, nausea, poor appetite, weight loss, fatigue, depression, xerostomia (dry mouth), and anxiety
- Increases white blood cell count
- Improves immune and lymphocyte cell activity
The side effects of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery can be as bad as the disease itself and lower a patient’s overall quality of life. Controlling debilitating nausea and fatigue are crucial to reserving the strength and optimism necessary for recovery.
Acupuncture is safe for all age groups, making it an excellent therapy to consider if you or your loved one is being overwhelmed from the effects of cancer and traditional treatments.
Acupuncture was first practiced in China thousands of years ago. It was one part of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system, used in conjunction with other modalities such as acupressure, tai chi, dietary therapy, herbal medicine, and qigong (meditation).
Modern acupuncturists incorporate styles from various regions, combining Korean, British, American, and French techniques for the best results.
However, all these styles are rooted in the TCM philosophy: to view the human body as part of nature. It is believed that a healthy person has harmony within his/her body and disease occurs when this harmony is interrupted. TCM therapies are used to restore this harmony.
Acupuncture adheres to the Chinese meridian theory.
There are twelve major meridians and eight minor meridians that follow a specific course throughout your body. Along these meridians are 360 points that an acupuncturist examines for signs of blockage. These are the access points for acupuncture needles.
Qi, the vital life force, flows within these meridians and controls the body’s basic functions. When Qi is disrupted, it results in pain and/or disease. The goal of acupuncture is to regulate the energy flow, relieving disease symptoms by stimulating specific acupuncture points.
Stainless steel needles are used for the treatment, which are 0.22 to 0.25 mm in diameter. They are carefully inserted into the acupuncture points and the patient may feel tingling, numbness, or heaviness. Needles remain in the targeted acupuncture points for 15-30 minutes after they are inserted and the effects are amplified by electrical stimulation.
The frequency and length of acupuncture sessions are based on the severity of the person’s condition. Patients with chronic illness initially undergo treatment 2-3 times a week and then reduce the number of visits each subsequent week after a few weeks of therapy.
An acupuncturist uses three methods on their patients.
- Needling: Needles are inserted at specific points of the meridians using fingers or a machine. This is the most common style of acupuncture and the one most recognized.
- Moxibustion: Herbs are gently toasted on the surface of the points, warming them to treat the symptoms.
- Cupping: Improves blood circulation and rouses the points by creating negative pressure on the skin. Heat lamps and electro acupuncture machines are commonly used to intensify the effects of the treatment.
Aside from traditional techniques, several methods were developed specifically to use acupuncture to fight cancer. They include laser acupuncture, acupuncture point injection, trigger point acupuncture, and other techniques that concentrate on specific parts of the body such as the hand, foot, scalp, and face. Auricular (ear) acupuncture is extremely popular and one of the most effective methods of TCM treatment.
Finding the Right Practitioner
For the most part, acupuncturists will follow the principles and theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine. However, there are schools that have their own theories about the acupuncture points and meridians, training their students in these alternative acupuncture methods.
Locating a properly certified acupuncturist cannot be stressed strongly enough. He or she must be licensed in traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
In the United States, there are approximately fifty colleges and schools of acupuncture and Oriental medicine that offer master’s programs. Many of these schools also offer doctorate degrees, which include Western medical training in physiology, anatomy, as well as proper needle techniques.
Each state has specific laws and requirements in order for an acupuncturist to receive their certifications. Research what the laws are in your state to avoid confusion.
Give Acupuncture a Chance
Acupuncture has been used effectively for thousands of years but it is only in the past four decades that traditional medicine has begun to research it and include this ancient art in the complementary treatment of patients.
It is not a “cure” but a way to manage the worst of the symptoms and side effects of the disease effectively, aiding the traditional methods used to fight cancer with a holistic, safe option
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