Acupuncture and breast cancer
In acupuncture, sterile, hair-thin needles are inserted into specific points on the skin, called "acupuncture points, " and then gently moved. Researchers propose that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system to release natural painkillers and immune system cells. They then travel to weakened areas of the body and relieve symptoms.
Studies show that acupuncture may:
Along with practices such as tai chi, acupuncture is a central part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), an ancient system of medicine. In Chinese medicine, it is believed that vital energy, called "qi" (pronounced "chee"), flows through 20 pathways, or "meridians, " which are connected by acupuncture points. According to TCM, if qi is blocked, the body can't function at its peak. The goal of acupuncture is to open certain points on these pathways and release blocked qi.
What to expect in a typical acupuncture session
At an acupuncture session, you can expect the following:
The effects of acupuncture can feel different from person to person — you may feel relaxed, or you may feel energized. Directly after the first treatment, some people feel slightly disoriented, but this is usually brief. After treatment, avoid activities that require you to be extra alert, such as driving, mowing the lawn, or cooking.
In the days following treatment, symptoms may worsen for a day or two, or you may notice changes in your appetite, sleep, or mood before you begin to feel improvement. If this happens, it lasts only a short while and passes with rest.
Acupuncture practitioner requirements
It's becoming more common for medical doctors, such as anesthesiologists and neurologists, to be trained in acupuncture. There are also numerous accredited training programs in the United States for certified acupuncturists who aren't medical doctors.