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Benefits of Acupuncture in a Palliative Care Setting

Benefits of Acupuncture in a Palliative Care Setting

People entering a hospice or palliative care setting bring with them a host of symptoms and emotions and often a multidisciplinary team of doctors and care providers. Research has shown that the addition of an acupuncturist to the hospice team can be effective and impactful at providing maximum comfort and improve quality of life.

Specifically, a 2015 study took an objective look at examining the effectiveness of acupuncture to relieve symptoms commonly observed in hospice patients. The study consisted of 26 patients who received a course of weekly treatments ranging from one to 14 weeks, with the average number of treatments being five. Symptoms monitored included severity of pain, tiredness, nausea, depression, anxiety, drowsiness, appetite, well-being and shortness of breath. Researchers found that seven out of the nine symptoms were “significantly improved with acupuncture, the exceptions being drowsiness and appetite.”

The final conclusion said, “Acupuncture was found to be effective for the reduction and relief of symptoms” commonly impacting quality of life. “Acupuncture effectively reduced symptoms of pain, tiredness, nausea, depression, anxiety, and shortness of breath, and enhanced feelings of well-being. More research is required to assess the long-term benefits and symptom reduction of acupuncture in a palliative care setting.”

According to the National Association of Hospice and Palliative Care Acupuncturists, “Oriental Medicine, much like hospice, embraces a whole-person pattern approach of mind, body, and spirit. It is unique in that the system utilizes a multitude of therapies including (but not limited to) acupuncture, Asian bodywork (e.g. shiatsu, acupressure, tui na), Chinese herbal medicines, cupping, coining, electrostimulation, heat therapies, meditation, moxibustion, nutrition, qi gong, and tai chi. Most of these therapies are useful in terminal disease treatments, though there are some contraindications depending on the individual patient’s condition. In particular, acupuncture, using specific point combinations, can serve to calm and release emotional and spiritual concerns for hospice patients.”

Another study outlined the effectiveness of home hospice acupuncture and found promising results: “Results from this preliminary evaluation lend support to the assertion that acupuncture constitutes a promising and effective intervention to be employed in an integrative fashion in the palliative care/end-of-life context. Interview data align with outcomes that reflect the underlying philosophic orientation of hospice, acupuncture, and the models underlying current quality-of-life instruments for end of life. For example, the fundamental ideologies of each emphasize patient autonomy, treating the whole person, and healing or making one whole.” Making sure our loved ones are comfortable, both emotionally and physically is more important than ever at this end of life stage.

It’s important to know that acupuncture is safe and can be an affordable option in treating the issues that come up for hospice and palliative care patients. It’s also drug-free and has few side effects. If you have a loved one entering into hospice or palliative care, don’t hesitate to ask how we might help become an effective part of the care team. We understand not only the physical symptoms that come from end of life care but the emotional struggles as well. We can help address any emotional concerns and improve quality of life at this important stage of care.

And remember, acupuncture can be just as impactful for caregivers of those in hospice programs. Care giving brings with it its own set of symptoms and emotional struggles. And caregivers often leave their own care (both physical and emotional) on the back burner while caring for a loved one, especially one nearing the end of life.

If you are a caregiver or have a loved one entering hospice or palliative care, talk to us about how we can make your journey more peaceful. We are skilled at working with the complete hospice care team and are here to help ease the burden of end of life care.

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