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Home > Newsletters > May 2004 >

Recent Research

Acupuncture Effective For Chronic Headaches

Insured Cancer Patients May Turn to Alternative Medicine

  Acupuncture - Safe, Effective for Late Pregnancy Back Pain

Nurse Practitioners Should Learn About Acupuncture for Chemotherapy Patients


Acupuncture Effective For Chronic Headaches

The researchers determined the effects of acupuncture on patients with chronic headaches, particularly migraines. They randomly allocated patients to receive up to 12 acupuncture treatments over three months or to a control intervention offering usual care. After a year headaches were lower in the acupuncture group than in controls. Patients in the acupuncture group experienced the equivalent of 22 fewer days of headache per year (8 to 38). Compared with controls, patients randomized to acupuncture used 15% less medication, made 25% fewer visits to general practitioners and took 15% fewer days off sick. The researchers concluded that acupuncture leads to persisting, clinically relevant benefits for primary care patients with chronic headache, particularly migraine.

Vickers AJ, et al. BMJ Epub 2004 Mar 15.


Insured Cancer Patients May Turn to Alternative Medicine

Insurance coverage of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is expanding. However, to the authors' knowledge, little is know concerning CAM utilization among cancer patients under the insurance model of financing. In this study, the authors evaluated how cancer patients used CAM services in a state that requires including alternative practitioners in private and commercial insurance products.

Of 357,709 claimants in Washington state, 7915 claimants (2.3%) had a cancer diagnosis. Among cancer patients, 7.1% had a claim for naturopathy, acupuncture, or massage; and 11.6% had a claim for chiropractic during the study year. Naturopathy and acupuncture were more common, and chiropractic was less common for cancer patients compared with those without cancer. No significant differences were noted in the use of massage between the two groups.

Factors associated with nonchiropractic alternative provider use were female gender, the presence of metastatic cancer, hematologic malignancy and chemotherapy. Increased use of naturopathic physicians accounted for much of this trend. Musculoskeletal pain was the most common diagnosis at the CAM provider visit. Billed amounts for alternative services were less than 2% of the overall medical bills for cancer patients.

The authors conclude that a substantial number of insured cancer patients will use alternative providers if they are given the choice. The cost of this treatment is modest compared with conventional care charges. For individuals with cancer, CAM providers do not appear to be replacing conventional providers but instead are integrated into overall care.

Lafferty WE, et al. The use of complementary and alternative medical providers by insured cancer patients in Washington State. Cancer 100(7):1522-30.


Acupuncture - Safe, Effective for Late Pregnancy Back Pain

The researchers designed the study to evaluate the analgesic effect and possible adverse effects of acupuncture for pelvic and low-back pain during the last trimester of pregnancy.

Following individual informed consent, 72 pregnant women reporting pelvic or low-back pain were randomized during pregnancy weeks 24-37 to an acupuncture group (n = 37) or to a control group (n = 35) at three maternity wards in southern Sweden. Traditional acupuncture points and local tender points (TP) were chosen according to individual pain patterns and stimulated once or twice a week until delivery or complete recovery in acupuncture patients. Control patients were given no sham stimulation. Throughout the study period each patient made weekly visual analog scale (VAS) evaluations of maximal and minimal pain intensity as well as three-point assessments of pain intensity during various activities.

During the study period, VAS scores of pain intensity decreased over time in 60% of patients in the acupuncture group and in 14% of those in the control group. At the end of the study period, 43% of the acupuncture patients were less bothered than initially by pain during activity compared with 9% of control patients. No serious adverse effects of acupuncture were found in the patients, and there were no adverse effects at all in the infants.

Acupuncture relieves low-back and pelvic pain without serious adverse effects in late pregnancy.

Kvorning N, et al. Acupuncture relieves pelvic and low-back pain in late pregnancy. Acta obstetricia et gynecologica Scandinavica 83(3):246-50.


Nurse Practitioners Should Learn About Acupuncture for Chemotherapy Patients

The authors reviewed existing research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) consensus statement and federal regulations regarding the use of acupuncture and acupressure for managing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in order to give nurse practitioners (NPs) the information they need to provide the best care for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer.

Research supports the effectiveness of acupuncture and acupressure for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Used in conjunction with current antiemetic drugs, acupuncture and acupressure have been shown to be safe and effective for relieving nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy.

Even with the best antiemetic pharmacological agents, 60% of cancer patients continue to experience nausea and vomiting when undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Because the NIH supports the use of acupuncture for nausea and vomiting, the NP is obligated to be knowledgeable about the use of these and other effective complementary treatments in order to provide the best care.

Collins KB and Thomas DJ. Acupuncture and acupressure for the management of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners 16(2):76-80.

This Month's Articles

May 2004
Volume 2, Number 4

Spring Allergies

Video Review: The Chinese Acupressure Facelift

NOMAA Curriculum Posted for Comment

Recent Research

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