Acupuncture may reduce pain and improve functioning among patients with cancer who have undergone surgery to the neck, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. As well, acupuncture may relieve xerostomia (dry mouth) among these patients.

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that aims to improve health by stimulating specific points of the body. Previous studies have found that acupuncture may effectively relieve certain side effects of cancer and its treatment.

To evaluate whether acupuncture can relieve pain and improve functioning among patients with a history of surgery to the neck, researchers studied 58 patients, 28 of whom received acupuncture and 30 who received “usual care” (physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, or painkillers). Researchers also assessed whether acupuncture could improve dry mouth among these patients

  • After four weeks patients in the acupuncture group reported less pain and improved functioning—including daily tasks—compared with patients receiving usual care.
  • Patients receiving acupuncture experienced greater relief of dry mouth than those receiving usual care.

The researchers concluded that acupuncture may be an effective way to relieve pain, improve functioning, and control dry mouth among patients with a history of neck surgery for cancer. Although further study is needed, it appears that acupuncture may be an effective therapy among this patient population.


Pfister DG, Cassileth BR, Deng GE, et al. Acupuncture for Pain and Dysfunction After Neck Dissection: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology [early online publication]. April 20, 2010. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Acupuncture: An Introduction. Available at: . Accessed April 23, 2010.

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