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Can acupuncture help your joint pain? The answer might be yes, if you are a woman being treated for breast cancer.

Many postmenopausal women with breast cancer may receive aromatase inhibitors such as anastrozole (Arimidex) or letrozole (Femara). These drugs block the production of estrogen, which can stimulate tumor growth. Aromatase inhibitors reduce the risk of recurrence. Common complications of these medications, however, include joint stiffness and pain.

Can Acupuncture Help Ease Uncomfortable Side Effects?

A new study published in JAMA (July 10, 2018) compared acupuncture to sham acupuncture and no treatment for this type of pain. More than 200 women participated in the research, which lasted for six weeks. Women who received true acupuncture had statistically significant reductions in joint pain. The improvement was modest and the researchers aren’t sure how long the benefits would last. Nonetheless, these results suggest that some women may benefit from this low-risk intervention.

Can Acupuncture Help Against Hot Flashes?

Hot flashes are another common side effect of aromatase inhibitors. Previous research suggests that acupuncture may reduce the hot flashes due to the estrogen-blocking drug tamoxifen. This medication is a standard treatment for breast cancer, but one side effect is hot flashes.

Doctors cannot prescribe estrogen, the usual treatment for such symptoms, because it might counteract the benefit of the drug and increase the risk for a recurrence. Investigators have found that acupuncture may be helpful (Journal of Clinical Oncology, Feb. 2010). During this small study women were randomly assigned to receive either venlafaxine (Effexor) or acupuncture for three months. Both treatments worked equally well.

Many women receiving Effexor experienced side effects such as anxiety or dizziness. Women using acupuncture did not report side effects.

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  1. carol

    Can acupuncture add strength to my upper arm. I had a rotator cuff tear and can only lift light-weight items. My dr. said to do Physical Therapy. Is that a better way to restore strength?

  2. Mary

    Whatever the problem, and whatever the cause, acupuncture offers relief. I have been getting acupuncture treatments for about eight years, and I swear by it. It relieves joint pain and is also good for your general well-being. It helped me heal from surgery last year, including minimizing scars. I highly recommend it for everyone!

  3. Jamie

    Great article! I loooove acupuncture. Anyone interested in this stuff should definitely check out the book Everyday Roots. It teaches you how to replace all the toxic chemicals in your life with healthy organic alternatives. Its completely changed my life and how I feel everyday! :)

    Heres a great review of everday roots:

    Keep up the great content!

  4. Terry
    Dunkirk, NY

    I’ve been an acupuncture practitioner for over twenty years and I can say without hesitation that acupuncture is most assuredly useful for joint pain – no matter the cause. It is also highly effective for treating post-menopausal hot flashes. Saying that, of course, every patient is unique and a multitude of contributing factors are examined by the practitioner to create the most useful treatment for the client being treated.

    This is individualized medicine. While more and more doctors are in fact accepting acupuncture as a viable form of treatment, my biggest concern is that in their acceptance, doctors are becoming ‘medical acupuncturists’. This simply means that they can treat with acupuncture after only 200 hours of training. Minimal theory is studied, a handful of acupuncture points are taught (often misused) and very little ‘point location’ is part of the training.

    The acupuncture points themselves are very specific so, with little point location training, the points are often ‘missed’. In my career, I have met people who have said, “Oh I had acupuncture and it didn’t work”. On further inquiry it is revealed that their acupuncture practitioner was their medical doctor…or even more troubling, their chiropractor.

    Acupuncture is an extraordinary medical practice. It is an art, and poor or ineffectual training does a disservice to this amazing system of medicine.

  5. Laura

    What helped relieve my joint pain was to stop eating gluten. I do not have celiac disease, but I am apparently gluten-sensitive. I actually stopped eating gluten as a test for a digestive issue I was having. After about six weeks without gluten, I noticed that I wasn’t waking up with aches and pains in the morning, my back and hips weren’t hurting, and I could drive my car for more than a half hour pain-free. Although being gluten-free isn’t easy, it’s easier than ever before because of all the GF products on the market. I urge people to at least try a GF diet before resorting to meds. And you have to give it at least six weeks. Hope this helps!

  6. c

    I just had my first time, first hand experience with accupuncture.
    Lower back pain and sciatica. I got off the table the first time ,no pain. After 3 treatments within. 4 weeks I have no more leg pain at night. The back pain is no more and hip plain has gotten less with each treatment.

    In addition, my legs always had a heavy feeling. One morning when I got up I realized my legs felt light.

    The cysts I had on the front of my thighs are mostly gone.
    Does it help with pain? In my case it did that and more. Is it permanent? I don’t know. However I think it is a pathway to full healing.

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