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Acupuncture for cancer-related pain

Cancer-related pain

Acupuncture for cancer-related pain


“Acupuncture is effective in relieving cancer-related pain, particularly malignancy-related and surgery-induced pain. Our findings suggest that acupuncture can be adopted as part of a multimodal approach for reducing cancer-related pain.” 1


A recent systematic review has looked at acupuncture as a treatment to help with cancer-related pain.

People experiencing pain in relation to cancer may be

  • in treatment
  • recovering from treatment or
  • in remission

Pain may be related to

  • malignancy
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • hormone therapy or
  • surgery

Pain is extremely common in patients and survivors. More than half of all cancer patients will experience pain either during treatments or in advanced stages of illness.

This pain significantly reduces patients’ quality of life.

Cancer pain is normally treated with pain medication. Issues with medication may include side effects such as nausea or constipation or inadequate pain control. With many patients receiving inadequate treatment for pain, the authors suggest that “alternative treatments for cancer-related pain are urgently required”.

The American Pain Society recommends that effective management include both pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network clinical guidelines for adult cancer pain recommend the inclusion of acupuncture as an integrated treatment option in conjunction with medication.

The study authors found good evidence to suggest that acupuncture is helpful as part of management of malignancy-related pain and surgery-induced pain. Further research is needed to determine how acupuncture can help with chemotherapy- and radiation-therapy related pain (such as neuropathy, which can be difficult to treat with medication).


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1. Chiu HY, Hsieh YJ, Tsai PS. Systematic review and meta-analysis of acupuncture to reduce cancer-related pain. European Journal of Cancer Care. 2017;26(2):e12457. doi:10.1111/ecc.12457

Further reading

Paley CA, Johnson MI, Tashani OA, Bagnall A-M. Acupuncture for cancer pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;(10):CD007753. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007753.pub3
Image credit: Photo by Hadis Safari on Unsplash

This post is brought to you by Lois Nethery, acupuncturist and Chinese medicine herbalist at Ocean Acupuncture in Curl Curl on Sydney's Northern Beaches.

Disclaimer - Ocean Acupuncture is a natural medicine centre of independent health practitioners. The views expressed in this blog are the author's only and do not necessarily reflect the views of all Ocean Acupuncture practitioners. The information presented in this blog, and on the Ocean Acupuncture website, is for interest and educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for health or medical information or advice. For health or medical advice, please consult your health professional.

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