Acupuncture for nausea and vomiting

Acute nausea and vomiting is not frequently seen in the acupuncture clinic, as patients with this symptom tend to be bed-ridden or in hospital. However, it is a common complaint of cancer patients undergoing treatment with chemotherapy or radiotherapy, as well as post-operatively after the administration of local or general anaesthetic.[1] These symptoms significantly compromise the patient’s well-being and contribute to weakness, wasting and emaciation.

The research base is very robust in this area, and a number of trials have found acupuncture to be as effective as anti-emetic drugs with minimal side effects. Indeed, the Cochrane Library is unequivocal about the effect of acupuncture on nausea and vomiting.[2] The effectiveness of acupuncture is based on its ability to regulate the activity of gastric muscles as well as modulate the actions of the autonomic nervous system and reduce peristaltic contractions. If treatment is not possible on the acute phase then self-administered acupressure on acupuncture point Neiguan P -6 can have a protective effect for acute nausea and can be easily taught to patients.[3]

For information on the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of nausea and vomiting during early pregnancy see morning sickness.

 

References

[1] Trueman, P. (2011). “Is Stimulation Of The Acupoint Neiguan P-6 Suitable Prophylaxis For Post-Operative Nausea And Vomiting Compared To Or In Combination With Current Pharmacological Prophylaxis?” Journal of Chinese Medicine, 95:41-51

[2] Lee, A & Fan, LTY (2009). “Stimulation of the wrist acupuncture point P6 for preventing postoperative nausea and vomiting.” Cochrane Reviews, 2. Available at <http://www.cochraneprimarycare.org/pearls/wrist-acupuncture-effective-prevention-postoperative-nausea-and-vomiting>

[3] Dibble, SL, Luce, J, Cooper, BA et al. (2007). “Acupressure for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: a randomized clinical trial.” Oncol Nurs Forum, 34(4):813-20