Electro Acupuncture Eases Pain after Breast Surgery. (Health Section)

By Marcus, Adam | Women in Action, December 2001 | Go to article overview

Electro Acupuncture Eases Pain after Breast Surgery. (Health Section)


Marcus, Adam, Women in Action


A shocking twist on acupuncture may help women who undergo major breast, surgery recover with less nausea and pain, a new research says.

Scientists say electrical stimulation that mimics needle pricks is more effective than the leading anti-nausea drug at controlling the lingering effects of anesthesia in women who undergo surgery for breast cancer, breast reduction or breast enlargement. They also say it eases postoperative pain.

The work was presented in New Orleans at a meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Acupuncture, the age-old traditional Chinese remedy that uses needles to re-channel the body's life force (chi), can ease pain in patients with a variety of diseases. And the therapy also works to soothe nausea associated with surgery and virtually any other medical procedure or problem, from chemotherapy to morning sickness, says Dr. Kenneth Conklin, an anesthesiologist and cancer specialist at the University of California at Los Angeles. Indeed, the National Institutes of Health has endorsed the regimen for this purpose.

Conklin, who helps teach the acupuncture course at the University of California (UCLA), offers the needle treatment to his cancer patients in addition to their drugs and radiation. He calls it "a tremendous benefit" for those who choose the therapy. Not only does the treatment ease their pain and nausea, it also helps them put on weight and feel more energetic--while avoiding the side effects of anti-nausea drugs.

In the new study, led by anesthesiologist Dr. Tong Joo Gan, Duke University researchers compared acupuncture with the anti-emetic drug ondansetron (Zofran), in 40 women undergoing major breast surgery. The women were split into three groups: one that received acupuncture only, one that got ondansetron, and one that received placebo treatment.

Electric Probes, Not Needles

The technique Gan and his colleagues used is called electro acupuncture, which relies on electric probes rather than needles and doesn't need to break the skin. The researchers placed electrodes at a region of the wrist known as the pericardial meridian, home to one of 14 acupuncture lines Chinese healers have mapped. …

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