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Acupuncture Alleviates Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy

I’ve had great success treating CIPN for patients with different types of cancers. The study below, originally posted here, focuses on the mechanism behind that success.

Researchers find acupuncture effective for alleviating chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) for patients with colon cancer. Neurotoxicity from chemotherapy may damage nerve fibers and lead to symptoms including pain, burning sensations, tingling, muscle weakness, balance disorders, paresthesia, dysesthesia, cold or heat sensitivity in the hands and feet, and a “glove and stocking” distribution of symptoms. The paresthesia is often experienced as a bilateral pins and needles sensation. Severity ranges from mild to debilitating. The researchers summarize their findings into three main benefits of acupuncture for patients with CIPN:

  • Acupuncture administered prior to chemotherapy prevents CIPN.

  • Use of acupuncture during chemotherapy inhibits the progression of CIPN.

  • Administration of acupuncture after completion of chemotherapy eliminates or reduces persistent symptoms.

The research was conducted at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America at the Southwestern Regional Medical Center located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The investigators applied Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) style acupuncture to 10 patients with chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy. They note that “all of the patients reported or had improvement in their CIPN grades after starting acupuncture.”

The researchers note that using customized acupuncture point prescriptions in the TCM style produces superior patient outcomes when the use of distal acupuncture points are employed. The researchers emphasize the need for customization of the acupoint prescriptions per each patient’s differential diagnostics for maximum clinical efficacy. In addition, they emphasize that distal acupoints “increase blood flow” and therefore have an especially important role in the treatment of CIPN.

The researchers note that CIPN symptoms are “typically dose-dependent”. As a result, CIPN may limit the amount of chemotherapy a patient can tolerate thereby interfering with the efficacy of anticancer therapy. This is particularly prevalent with drugs containing platinum including oxaliplatin, an important drug in the treatment of colorectal cancer.

Platinum based medications often have both acute and chronic adverse CIPN effects because they “produce direct damage to dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons.” The researchers add, “Cisplatin, taxanes, and vinca alkaloids have also been shown to exert damage to microtubules resulting in the disruption of axonal transport and thereby signal transduction in these nerve fibers.” The researchers note that “acupuncture for the treatment of CIPN has several advantages.” They note that “side-effects are minimal and it has been shown to be safe and effective in preliminary studies.” An additional benefit to antitumor therapy, they add that studies indicate that acupuncture regulates the immune system.


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