Acupuncture and Breast Cancer: A Clinical Research Overview

shutterstock_154750382You have probably noticed little pink ribbons popping up everywhere and many people dressed in pink clothing. That’s right. It’s October. Breast Cancer Awareness month, and everyone is coming out to show their support. Whether you are a survivor yourself or you know someone who has had breast cancer, it has affected the lives of almost everyone.  Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and it is the second leading cause of death among women.  One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Research and studies show that acupuncture can help to:

Reduce nausea and vomiting

Decrease fatigue

Control hot flashes

Minimize and lessen pain

I have also found acupuncture to be effective in helping with the healing process and also reducing scar tissue post breast reconstructive surgery.



The Journal of the American Medical Association published an article in 2000 on the effectiveness of acupuncture, specifically electro-acupuncture, on managing emesis (vomiting). In the study, 104 women receiving high doses of chemotherapy for breast cancer were chosen. All subjects were given anti-nausea medication. There were 3 groups. Those that received acupuncture with electrical stimulation, acupuncture without electrical stimulation, and no acupuncture. Those that had acupuncture experienced significantly less episodes of nausea/vomiting than those who didn’t receive any acupuncture at all.

Researchers at Duke University published an article in Sept. 2002 in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia. The study showed that acupuncture worked better than the anti-nausea medication ondansetron, more commonly known as Zofran, in alleviating postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) after major breast surgery, such as a mastectomy.  Duke anesthesiologist Tong Joo (T.J.) Gan, M.D., who led the trial said, “In the areas of PONV control, pain relief, and general overall satisfaction, acupuncture appears to be more effective than the most commonly used medication (Zofran), with few to no side effects.”



In 2012, the American Society of Clinical Oncology conducted a study of 302 participants with breast cancer. The study was to determine if acupuncture was effective in treating cancer related fatigue (CRF) in patients with breast cancer. Those participants that received the acupuncture for 6 weeks reported improvements in physical, mental, and overall fatigue. They had more motivation and felt less psychological distress. 


Hot Flashes:

Presented in part at the American Society for therapeutic radiation oncology conference in Boston in Sept 2008, Dr. Eleanor M. Walker presented her findings of acupuncture in the treatment in vasomotor symptoms in patients with breast cancer. The findings showed that acupuncture worked just as well as Venlafaxine (Effexor), a drug commonly used to treat night sweats and hot flashes in menopausal woman with breast cancer. The only difference is Effexor has numerous side effects and acupuncture does not. It also showed that 2 weeks post treatment,  the Effexor group had an increase in hot flashes, while the acupuncture groups hot flashes remained at low levels.



Part of treatment for breast cancer is taking aromatase inhibitors. About 50 percent of people that take them develop arthralgia or joint pain, and so many people stop taking them because of this even though it is a vital part of treatment. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman school of Medicine found that acupuncture decreases this joint pain that is caused from taking aromatase inhibitors.

If you or someone you know has breast cancer consider acupuncture.  There are no side-effects and it can improve your overall well-being and quality of life.




Acupuncture- Is it working for me? 


I was talking to a patient the other day (she is being treated with acupuncture for fertility issues) and she said to me, “I know I am not pregnant yet, but I can tell the acupuncture is working.” She mentioned to me that she is sleeping better, her energy is up and she is more focused at work. I was so pleased to hear this. I thought to myself, “Yes! She gets it. She understands!”

Acupuncture works to guide the body back to its natural state of balance so it can heal itself. It is a process. Depending on the severity, nature and duration of time that the patient has had the condition it can take a while to become fully balanced.

I have had patients come in and tell me that they’ve had acupuncture before and it didn’t work. “I’ve had back pain for 30 years. I went to see an acupuncturist for one treatment and my back pain didn’t improve.”

We live in a fast paced society. We desire immediate results and want instant gratification. Unfortunately, most things don’t work that way and acupuncture is one of them. That is not to say that after one treatment someone won’t feel better, but especially if it is a chronic long standing issue it may take much longer.

Below is an article that talks about 6 signs that acupuncture is working for you. Be patient with the process. Your body has taken a while to become unbalanced it needs time to be able to reestablish that balance.


Acupuncture for Depression

shutterstock_130152032We have all felt sad or depressed at one time or another in our lives, but it tends to quickly pass. For those who are clinically depressed, this feeling tends to last for a much longer period of time and not only does it affect their lives, but the lives of those around them as well. Depression is a mental illness that if left untreated can lead to more emotional problems and also manifest into physical problems. It is characterized by prolonged feelings of hopelessness, sadness, worthlessness and thoughts of death/suicide. Depression affects physical health as well in that a person who suffers from depression may have trouble sleeping, eating, and working. It is estimated that there are 20 million Americans who are affected by depression and it is on the rise. The World Health Organization believes that depression will be the second highest medical cause of disability by the year 2030, second only to HIV/AIDS.

Today, the most common form of treatment for depression is medication. However, more than 60% of patients on anti-depressants are responding with below satisfactory results. They are receiving partial temporary benefit or no benefit at all. Those who do respond to medication only receive temporary benefit/relief from the symptoms. Anti-depressants don’t treat the cause, they only mask the symptoms, and the side effects of depression medication have been reported to sometimes be worse than the depression itself.  Even knowing all of this, 11.3 billion dollars a year is spent on anti-depressant medications in the United States.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) does not see depression as a specific illness for everyone who experiences it.  Chinese Medicine focuses on each individual and customizes the treatments specific to that particular person. Acupuncture is seen as an alternative treatment to reduce the severity of depression. Acupuncture can alleviate the signs and symptoms the person is experiencing as well as address the root cause and underlying imbalances.

Many studies have been done to support acupuncture as a treatment to alleviate depression.  Recently, a randomized controlled study was done. The results showed that the brain chemistry that is changed due to depression can be altered with acupuncture. Electro-acupuncture was performed on points Baihui and Yintang. At the end of the trial, the genes that were imbalanced from depression had become normalized. Acupuncture provides a safe, natural, drug-free way to treat depression.

You can read more about the study here:

“The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul, although the two cannot be separated.” -Plato

Acupressure Points

What Are The 4 Gates?

Through my time as an acupuncturist I have had many people ask me, “Why are you doing that point? What is that point for?” I do not always use specific points for specific ailments, but rather a combination of points tailored to treat the individual.

The 4 gates is an acupuncture point combination consisting of 2 different points needled bilaterally. One point, Large Intestine 4 (Hegu), is on the dorsum of the hand. The other point, Liver 3 (Taichong), is on the dorsum of the foot.


Large Intestine (LI4) –Immune Booster/Pain Reliever


This point is great to use for many different conditions. It is used to strengthen one’s immune system or decrease the duration of colds and/or the flu. It can also be used for any type of problemwith the face which includes jaw pain, toothache, allergies, acne. It is also a great point to relieve a headache or to clear heat and inflammation anywhere in the body.



Liver 3 (LV3) –Keeping Things Moving

In my opinion, this is one of the most commonly needled points on the body. Deadman_LV3-242x300It can balance, tonify, or disperse stagnant liver energy.  It can be used for any liver energy disharmony. Just a few examples of this include: menstrual disorders/irregularities, headaches, dizziness, and detoxification. It can also be used to create a calming effect on the nervous system to alleviate insomnia, irritability, stress, and anxiety.


Together, these points work to circulate the qi and blood through the body. They help to open all the meridians, increase circulation, and decrease pain anywhere in the body. The 4 Gates can also be used for emotional issues as well such as feelings of being trapped or stuck in a situation. This is a great point combination to help maintain the free flow of qi and blood through our bodies.

Autumn Leaves

The Key to your Wei-Qi

The change of seasons, especially late summer into fall, can also mean the start of cold season. In Chinese medicine, there are 5 Elements. Each are related to a particular season: winter, spring, summer, late summer, and fall. The element associated with the fall is Metal. The two organs associated with this element are the large intestine and the lungs. The lungs help circulate the wei-qi, or defensive qi in our bodies. If the wei-qi is weak, the body’s defense system is down and you are more susceptible to colds and flu. Although we can control much of our everyday life, one thing we cannot control is the constant exposure to germs, bacteria and viruses. Our best defense is to keep our immune system strong enough so that when we encounter these germs we don’t get sick. Acupuncture is very effective at strengthening the body’s immune system. If our lung qi is weak, then our wei-qi is also weak and it can’t circulate properly. By strengthening our lung qi and keeping our energy balanced, we can strengthen our body’s natural resistance to disease.

Herbs can also be very effective in prevention or decreasing the duration of an illness. A common Chinese formula used to build up the body’s natural defenses is called Jade Windscreen, or Yu Ping Feng San. It is a classic formula that dates back over 800 years and it most widely known to treat for the prevention of colds and allergies. It is safe for both adults and children. If a cold or flu is already present in the body, other herbal formulas would be prescribed.



  1. Drink plenty of water
  2. Get an adequate amount of sleep (7-8 hours a night is sufficient)
  3. Exercise regularly (aerobic activity a few times a week and muscle strengthening at least twice a week is recommended)
  4. Avoid refined sugars (it taxes and weakens the body’s immune system)
  5. Foods: sweet potatoes, pears, and nuts are foods that strengthen and tonify lung energy. The flavor associated with the fall is pungent. Examples of some pungent foods are: peppers, chilies, onions, mustard, ginger, and garlic.




Coping with Traumatic Events with Acupuncture

No matter where I live, Massachusetts and Boston will always be considered home for me. The Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 affected the whole country in some way or another. Our spirit may have shook for a brief moment, but today we stand united and banded as a people. There are things in life that we witness, or are a part of, that we cannot control; things such as the loss of a loved one, destruction of our home, war, violence, and abuse. These things may have short term or long term lasting effects on us.

There is a very effective acupuncture treatment that can be used to help one cope through such difficult times. It is called the NADA protocol. This protocol consists of needling 5 points in the ear. The points are referred to as: Sympathetic, Shen Men, Kidney, Liver, and Lung. What started out as a drug addiction and detoxification protocol is now widely used for PTSD. Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB) began in September 2005 treating people using this protocol that endured the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It was so successful that AWB has now expanded to include a Military Stress Relief project, treating soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. This project consists of volunteer acupuncturists that use the NADA protocol to respond to emergencies and disasters worldwide. They have helped thousands of people all over the world affected by trauma and disaster.

I myself have used this protocol more times than I can count, for everything from drug addiction/withdrawal to PTSD. The needles are usually done in a group setting and retained for 30-45 minutes. Those affected by trauma are usually left feeling vulnerable and unwilling to talk about the events as which they have been effected by. As a patient receiving this treatment, you do not have to talk about the events which have brought you in for treatment. The treatments are just as effective with or without communication between the patient and practitioner. After being treated with this protocol, patients are left feeling less anxious, stronger, and more relaxed. This protocol is usually done in a group setting which allows patients to also feel more comfortable and safe. It also allows for the practitioner to be able to treat more patients at a time and thus help more people.

Everyone has been affected by some sort of trauma in their life. You are not alone, and you don’t need to lock it away or suffer. There are many ways to cope with trauma and disaster and now you can also add acupuncture to that list.

2013: The Year of the Snake. A year for transformation.

Gong Xi Fa Cái! Happy New Year!

If you are like me, the New Year is a time to start over. We all have things we want to do to make ourselves better. Maybe it is to sign-up for a gym membership to try and work off that enormous turkey leg we ate on Thanksgiving, or that extra piece of chocolate cake we indulged in during the holidays. Maybe it is to be a kinder, patient person. Or maybe it is drop bad habits and replace them with good ones such as to sleep more and stress less. But whatever New Year’s resolutions we have, we look forward to the beginning of the year to start making these changes in our life. Well if you are already feeling like you have forgotten some of your resolutions or have fallen off the wagon, don’t worry because you have a second chance to start all over!

We may be over a month into the New Year, but the Chinese New Year is just around the corner. The Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, is the longest and most celebrated holiday in Chinese culture. Different traditions include the cleaning of the house to sweep away the past year, the hanging of red lanterns for good luck, and eating foods which are considered “lucky” with friends and family. There are 12 animals that make up the Chinese zodiac. Each animal represents a different year. Those born in the year of that animal are said to inherit some of that animal’s qualities.


The Year of the Snake:

As the Year of the Dragon comes to an end, the Year of the Snake emerges. This year, February 10th 2013 marks the first day as The Year of the Snake. Those born in the Year of the Snake are said to be clever, analytical, and goal-oriented. They are very intuitive and great thinkers. They  also usually look calm on the outside, but are very intense and powerful beings.


So What Does This Mean for You and Your Health?

The shedding of a snake’s skin resembles rebirth or new life. The New Year is a great time for a transformation; a time for change. Now is a good time to think about shedding some of that “old skin.” Get rid of negative, unwanted energy. Start making some positive changes in your life. Learn from those born the year of the snake; set your goals and accomplish them. Transform your life into something you want it to be, not something it has become. Eating right, exercising regularly, and getting an adequate amount of sleep are all important in maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle, but you can also add acupuncture to that list as well. Acupuncture helps to strengthen the immune system, boost metabolism, and decrease stress. The Year of the Snake is predicted to be a year of challenges and conflicts. By keeping your body balanced and healthy, you will be more suited to face any obstacles that may come your way this year.

Wishing you peace, health, and happiness this year and always.

My First Little Blog Post

My name is Jill. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am an acupuncturist. I am many things. I live for the moment, and as an optimist my glass is not just half full but usually filled to the brim and overflowing. Over the years as an acupuncturist I have been asked many questions and experienced many different things. I feel most of this is worthy to share with the world, so I have decided to blog. I may be a little biased, but I believe I have one of the best jobs one can have. Though you can usually hear my loud voice and laughter traveling through the office, I take my job very seriously. I look forward to helping people on a daily basis. I know I can’t help everyone or save the world, but I like to think I make a positive difference in the lives of many people.