Acupuncture May Relieve Stress and Cancer Treatment Symptoms

Therapist places acupuncture needles on a person's back

I’ve seen a chiropractor most of my life. I guess that’s based partly on the fact that my mom has chronic back problems and the two car accidents I’ve had in my life. A few months back, my chiropractor here in Orlando recommended I try acupuncture.

I had tried acupuncture a few times many years ago, and hadn’t thought much more about it since. But when my chiropractor, whom I have seen for several years now, suggested it, I definitely wanted to try it again. I trust him, and he knows me and my ailments well.

Over the past several months, I have seen the acupuncturist probably 10 times. It has definitely helped me with stress and to feel better overall. During my treatments, which last about 15 minutes each time, I feel so relaxed and peaceful.

But I wasn’t happy to leave it at that. I wanted to learn more about acupuncture and how it works. I also wanted to become more knowledgeable so I could tell my friends and family all about it (and you, the readers of

Interview with Michelle Whitmer of The Mesothelioma Center

You may be familiar with Michelle Whitmer.

She is one of the writers at The Mesothelioma Center, and she’s been writing about treatments, cancer research and alternative medicines, among other topics, for more than seven years.

Whitmer is also a certified yoga instructor and member of the American Holistic Medical Association.

I asked her to unravel some of the mystery behind acupuncture and explain its use as an alternative treatment for mesothelioma.

Q: I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for many, many years, but just recently started seeing an acupuncturist who works out of the same office as my chiropractor. Can you explain how acupuncture works? It seems pretty mysterious to many people, including me.

A: There are several theories on how acupuncture affects the body, but research has drawn little conclusive scientific evidence. Many Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners believe
acupuncture works by balancing an energy system in the body called qi or chi, which hasn’t been proven to exist. Medical research has investigated possible
biological explanations for acupuncture’s effects, revealing that many acupoints are located near nerve bundles and intersections of tendons and other
important tissues.

Q: Can mesothelioma patients benefit from acupuncture? What about their family members?

A: No studies on acupuncture and mesothelioma have been conducted yet. However, some cancer centers now offer acupuncture as a complementary treatment for chemotherapy patients coping with nausea and vomiting. Family members may find acupuncture helpful for relieving stress.
Q: How can mesothelioma patients find an acupuncturist they can trust? Should they ask their doctor first to make sure it’s a good idea for their
unique situation?

A: Mesothelioma patients should ask their oncologist whether acupuncture is a safe addition to their treatment plan. Only highly experienced acupuncturists should work with cancer patients. Cancer centers such as MD Anderson in Houston, Texas, have acupuncturists familiar with the intricacies of cancer and can safely treat cancer patients.

Q: Have you had acupuncture done? What was your experience like?

A: Yes, I’ve experienced acupuncture several times. I felt relaxed while receiving acupuncture and noticed significant pain relief that lasted for days thereafter. I now use acupressure to relieve bouts of nausea and pain.

Q: My acupuncturist tells me that its effectiveness has something to do with the body’s “energy” systems. What does that mean?

A: Your acupuncturist is referring to qi energy, which is a theoretical energy proposed by TCM practitioners who believe acupuncture helps to balance qi energy in the body, which they say promotes healing and wellness.

Q: How many needles will most acupuncturists use? My acupuncturist places a different number each time in different locations. Sometimes, I nap for a few hours after I drive home from his office. Is this normal?

A: The amount of acupuncture needles used and where they are placed can vary greatly. This is normal protocol for the application of acupuncture. It is also normal to feel sleepy during and after acupuncture. Many people feel profoundly relaxed.

Q: I know a lot of people are afraid of needles in general, from getting blood drawn to giving blood. The idea of having a bunch of needles stuck into
your body can be really frightening. I found that it doesn’t hurt at all! But how can I reassure others that it will be OK?

A: This is a topic to discuss with an experienced acupuncturist, who can explain the difference between regular needles and acupuncture needles, which are significantly thinner.

Q: Is acupuncture sanitary? Are the needles reused?

A: New acupuncture needles are used for each therapy session and are discarded; they are never reused. These needles come individually wrapped and are sanitized prior to packaging.

Q: Are there scientific studies about the effectiveness of acupuncture? Can you summarize one or two of them for us?

A: Studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of acupuncture, and they generally focus on specific symptoms. For example, a 2003 study reported a 36 percent reduction in pain among cancer patients who still coped with the symptom despite taking pain medication.

A 2007 study conducted in Germany reported that acupuncture relieved a type of nerve pain caused by chemotherapy for 76 percent of participants. Meanwhile, a British study published in 2007 found a 36 percent improvement in cancer-related fatigue among chemotherapy patients who received acupuncture.


Jennifer Mia has been writing and editing for more than 15 years. She has worked for newspapers, magazines and online publications. When she was in college, she lost a brother to cancer, and now she writes blogs for The Mesothelioma Center. Jennifer hopes that her writing brings some small amount of hope and healing to the many men and women who are forced to deal with this horrible cancer.

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