A condition in which the ability of the lymphatic system to transport fluids has been compromised, lymphedema leads to a build-up of protein rich fluid in tissue spaces causing swelling that in turn reduces oxygen to the tissue impairing normal cell function. The most common causes of this condition are cancer and cancer therapies.
Studies done at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has revealed that acupuncture safely and effectively treats lymphedema. Women suffering from lymphedema associated with breast cancer often experience bilateral swelling of the sides of the body or the arms. In the study, it was shown that standard treatment has had little effect in the decrease of swelling; acupuncture treatment, on the other hand, lessened the swelling by more than 30% which is deemed significant.
Acupuncture is a branch of TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), involving the placement of tiny slender needles at certain points in the body known as acupoints along channels of energy called meridians. Typically, the needles stimulate the acupoints that in turn help balance and adjust the flow of energy and bring back health.
Studies reveal that acupuncture boosts the number of natural pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins in the bloodstream. It also stimulates the pituitary gland that in turn, stimulates the adrenal in order to release chemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties.
During an acupuncture procedure, expect a painless insertion of the needles since they are ultra-thin in size. Almost all patients feel relaxed and calm during the procedure. They state that the needle sensation can be compared to a mosquito bite which is essentially not painful. Research shows that acupuncture does not cause pain unless the needle is improperly placed which very rarely occurs with qualified acupuncturists. One research revealed that there were only 671 incidents of either minor pain or bleeding from the insertion of the needles out of 10,000 treatments.
Acupuncture is a very safe form of treatment especially when performed by a qualified professional. The needles are pre-packaged and sterilized and used only once. There is very little risk of side effects when using acupuncture and one study showed that in 34,000 treatments no adverse effects were seen with a large sample. Compared to prescription painkillers acupuncture is extremely safe. One other study showed that in 1139 treatments no infections were seen resulting from the needle insertions.