Acupuncture & Acupressure

Traditional Chinese medicine was based on the concept of Qi – a vital force of energy inside our body. This energy flows along channels called meridians. Acupuncture and acupressure are ways to alter the flow to restore or optimize good health. Since both these techniques stimulate nerves, they help in the release of endorphins in the brain and the spinal cord which helps in relieving pain. They also release serotonin which further relieves pain and promoted the feeling of well-being. 

Acupuncture and Acupressure for Cancer patients

Most cancer patients opt for acupuncture or acupressure to help manage cancer symptoms, increase well-being and the overall quality of life. Here are some benefits  of acupuncture and/or acupressure in cancer care:

  • Effective for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
  • Managing cancer-related pain
  • Effective for Chemotherapy-related neutropenia (low white blood cells)
  • Fatigue or excessive tiredness relief
  • Managing radiation-induced xerostomia (dry mouth)
  • Improving sleep quality and insomnia, etc. 

Difference between Acupuncture and Acupressure

In acupuncture, the practitioner puts fine stainless steel needles in through your skin. These are disposable needles which don’t cause pain. Although, you might feel a tingling sensation. These needles stimulate the nerves. 

On the other hand, in acupressure, the designated nerves are stimulated by directly applying pressure on specific points on your body. No needles are used in this technique.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy that has generally become widely accepted in Western medicine. The World Health Organization published an extensive review of evidence in 2002 concluding that acupuncture is an effective treatment for many diseases, symptoms or conditions, including pain and other cancer symptoms.

Treatment involves stimulation of one or more designated points on the body with needles (acupuncture), pressure (acupressure), or electricity (electroacupuncture, EA).

In the 2009 Society of Integrative Oncology clinical practice guidelines, “acupuncture is strongly recommended as a complementary therapy when pain is poorly controlled, when side effects from other modalities are clinically significant, when chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) are poorly controlled, or when reducing the amount of pain medicine becomes a clinical goal. Acupuncture may also have a role in reducing xerostomia [dry mouth].”

Studies and Research

Clinical Conditions Study Group Features Major Outcomes
Chemotherapy-induced nausea & vomiting 85% breast cancer, 10% hematologic neoplasms patients undergoing chemotherapy Patients in the acupressure group experienced less nausea on the day treatment compared to controls
Post-operative nausea and vomiting Patients undergoing major breast surgery The complete response rate was 77% vs. 64% and 42% (p=0.01); electro-acupoint stimulation is more effective in controlling nausea.
Cancer pain Patients with chronic peripheral or central neuropathic pain arising after cancer treatment Pain intensity decreased by 36% at 2 months from baseline in the study group
Post-chemotherapy fatigue Cancer patients who had completed cytotoxic chemotherapy at least 3 weeks previously but complained of persisting fatigue. The mean improvement from baseline fatigue score was 31.3% (95% CI: 20.6%–41.5%)

Centers in India

You can also visit and similar sites to search for an acupuncturist or acupressure practitioner. Ensure that the practitioner specializes in cancer care before booking an appointment.


  1. Credit: Beyond Conventional Care Therapies
  2. Integrative Oncology Cancer Care
  3. Acupuncture. Cancer Research UK. 
  4. Weidong Lu, MB, MPH, Elizabeth Dean-Clower, MD, MPH, Anne Doherty-Gilman, MPH, and David S. Rosenthal, MD. The Value of Acupuncture in Cancer Care. Hematol Oncol Clin North Am. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2009 Aug 1.
  5. Mao JJ, Xie S et al. The effect of acupuncture versus cognitive behavior therapy on insomnia in cancer survivors: a randomized clinical trial. 2018 ASCO Meeting Abstract. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 36, 2018 (suppl; abstr 10001).
  6. East-West Medicine. What is the difference between acupuncture and acupressure?
  7. Studies and reviews:
  8. Memorial Sloan Kettering About Herbs: Acupuncture
  9. National Cancer Institute: Acupuncture (PDQ®)
  10. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Acupuncture: In Depth
  11. CAM-Cancer:
  12. Acumedicine. Acupuncture.pc website Cancer Care page: in three videos on this page, Kevin Mutschler, LAc, demonstrates several acupressure techniques for relieving various symptoms
  13. Mayo Clinic: Tests and Procedures: Acupuncture
  14. World Health Organization: Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trial(2002)
  15. Jonathan Simon: Acupuncture in Cancer Care
  16. Gary Deng, MD, PhD: Complementary Therapies for Pain Management
  17. Ting Bao, MD: The Role of Integrative Therapy in Cancer Care
  18. National Cancer Institute: Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  19. Michael Lerner: Choices In Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer
  20. National Comprehensive Cancer Network Patient and Caregiver Resources
  21. Carole O’Toole and Carolyn B. Hendricks: Healing outside the Margins: The Survivor’s Guide to Integrative Cancer Care
  22. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Integrative Medicine Education & Training Programs
  23. Keith I. Block, MD: Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment
  24. Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn Gazella: The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing
  25. Neil McKinney, BSc, ND: Naturopathic Oncology, 3rd Edition
  26. Donald I. Abrams, MD, and Andrew T. Weil, MD: Integrative Oncology, 2nd Edition
  27. Raymond Chang, MD: Beyond the Magic Bullet: The Anti-Cancer Cocktail
  28. National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health: PDQ® Cancer Information Summaries
  29. BCCT(Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies) Website
Scroll to Top