Acupuncture Success for Chemo & Radiation Side Effects

A new report published by the Medical College of Wisconsin notes that acupuncture reduces chemoradiation side effects. The study demonstrated that acupuncture reduced painful swallowing and dry mouth that resulted from chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Odynophagia, painful swallowing, is a common side effect of chemoradiation therapy for the treatment of oropharyngeal cancer along with xerostomia, dry mouth.

Acupuncture is successful in the treatment of cancer side-effects. The study notes that over 50,000 people in the USA are diagnosed with head and neck cancers annually. While dry mouth is the most common side-effect of head and neck cancer treatment, painful swallowing is considered more detrimental to the quality of life.  The researchers note that these side-effects are difficult to manage but that acupuncture was successful in helping to reduce both odynophagia and xerostomia.

The study documented a case study of a patient receiving 10 acupuncture treatments at a rate of one per week for a duration of 20 minutes per each treatment. The patient reported gradual improvement over the treatment period with a complete resolution of odynophagia after four acupuncture treatments and a 30-40% improvement of xerostomia after 10 acupuncture treatments.

Prior to acupuncture therapy, the patient failed to respond to pilocarpine, Biotene rinse and speech therapy. The patient suffered from dry mouth characterized by dry oral mucus membranes and skin hyperpigmentation associated with radiation side-effects. The patient experienced significant throat pain and noted a focal pain at the base of the tongue that worsened with swallowing. The patient also experienced impaired taste and difficulty swallowing. After four acupuncture treatments, the painful swallowing disappeared completely. The dry mouth reduced significantly by the end of the 10 acupuncture sessions.

The report, published in the Journal of Cancer Therapeutics & Research, focused on a single case history. Manual acupuncture, electroacupuncture and auricular acupuncture were applied to the patient. Yangming channel acupuncture points used in the study were ST3, ST4, ST5, ST6, ST7, ST36, LI4 and LI11. Acupuncture points were also applied to Taiyang channel points SI18 and SI19.  Shaoyang acupuncture points used in the study were GB2 and GB3. A single point was applied to the Taiyin channel at SP6 and extra channel points GV20 and CV23 & CV24 were applied. Ear acupuncture points Shenmen and Point Zero were also included.

The study notes that electroacupuncture was applied to ST5, ST6 and ST7 bilaterally starting at acupuncture treatment number two. Starting at treatment number five, electroacupuncture was bilaterally applied to ST3 and ST4. The acupuncture needles used in the study were Vinco brand of 0.25mm diameter. Two lengths were used, 15mm and 25mm. Needle depth ranged from 0.25cm to 1cm and electroacupuncture was set to 30Hz with an amplitude adjusted for patient tolerance to sensation response.

Colorado, Berdale, and Hong Wu. “Acupuncture for the relief of odynophagia and xerostomia after chemoradiation therapy in oropharyngeal cancer: a case report.” (2013).

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