What is it?

Acupuncturists put fine, sterile needles just under the skin into meridians (energy channels) in the body. Each meridian has many acupuncture points along its path.

Why use it?

Acupuncture is based on the theory that the placement of needles into certain points of the body unblocks and moves qi (energy) to strengthen vital force and reduce physical and emotional symptoms. The exact mechanism of acupuncture remains largely unclear. However, evidence indicates that needles may stimulate nerves to release the body’s own natural chemicals, which help reduce pain or regulate the brain and other functions.

What to expect?

After a consultation, which may include tongue and pulse analysis, the practitioner gently positions sterile needles into points on your body. The needles are left in place for 30 seconds to 30 minutes, and may be turned. You may feel a tingling or dull aching sensation, but should not feel pain.

Acupuncturists may also implant and cover special needles (called press needles), which can remain in place for several days. These needles can be pressed to relieve some symptoms, such as insomnia or nausea.

What is the evidence?

The main areas of research into acupuncture for cancer are chemotherapy-related nausea and cancer pain, and some clinical trials have shown promising results. Anecdotal evidence suggests acupuncture is relaxing and reduces anxiety.

Some qualified and registered acupuncturists in Australia have special training and experience in treating cancer-related conditions. Ask your doctor whether this is offered at your treatment centre.

This information was last reviewed in May 2015
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