Clinical studies have shown acupuncture to be a wonderful alternative for alleviating nausea and vomiting, regardless of whether these symptoms are the result of morning sickness in pregnant women, chemotherapy in cancer patients, or postoperative effects from anesthesia.
Nausea and Vomiting in Early Pregnancy
In 2002, a randomized controlled trial was conducted at an Australian maternity hospital to determine whether acupuncture reduced nausea and vomiting for women in pregnancy. The study comprised 593 women who were less than 14 weeks pregnant and experiencing symptoms of nausea or vomiting. These women were randomly assigned to either an acupuncture group or a sham acupuncture group. The acupuncture group received acupuncture treatment three times a week for 4 weeks, while the sham acupuncture group received a placebo acupuncture treatment. This study concluded that acupuncture is an effective treatment for women experiencing nausea and dry retching in early pregnancy.
Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting (CINV)
In 2020, researchers from Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Beijing University of Chinese Medicine conducted a study to compare the effectiveness of true acupuncture vs. sham acupuncture in controlling CINV among patients with advanced cancer. In the study, 134 participants undergoing chemotherapy treatment were randomly assigned to receive either real acupuncture or sham acupuncture (the control group). The study found that participants who received real acupuncture experienced less severe nausea and vomiting, and had a greater appetite for food, than those in the control group.
In a separate 2003 study, researchers from the Department of Rheumatology and Inflammation Research at Sahlgrenska University Hospital investigated the efficacy of acupuncture in reducing CIVN in patients with rheumatic diseases. The study involved 39 patients who were divided into two groups: one group received acupuncture and ondansetron (a standard anti-nausea antiemetic drug), while the other group received ondansetron alone, to treat CINV. The results of the study showed that the group that received acupuncture and ondansetron had a significantly lower rate of nausea and vomiting, as well as a shorter duration of nausea, compared to the group that received ondansetron alone. The acupuncture group also reported a significantly higher quality of life during chemotherapy treatment.
Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting
A randomized controlled trial was conducted to test the effectiveness of acupuncture for postoperative nausea and vomiting. 220 patients scheduled for surgery were randomly assigned to receive acupuncture or the placebo treatment either before or after anesthesia induction. The study found that regardless of the timing of its application, acupuncture was effective in treating postoperative nausea and significantly reduced incidences of vomiting.
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Smith, C., Crowther, C., & Beilby, J. (2002). Acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. Birth, 29(1), 1-9. PubMed. 10.1046/j.1523-536x.2002.00149.x
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Carlsson, C., Axemo, P., Bodin, A., Ehrenroth, B., Carstensen, H., Madegard-Lind, I., & Navander, C. (2000). Manual Acupuncture Reduces Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Jounral of Pain and Symptom Management, 20(4), 273-279. JPSM. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0885-3924(00)00185-8
Efficacy of acupuncture in the prevention and treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in patients with advanced cancer: a multi-center, single-blind, randomized, sham-controlled clinical research. (2020). Chinese Medicine, 15(57). BioMedCentral. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13020-020-00333-x
Josefson, A., & Kreuter, M. (2003). Acupuncture to reduce nausea during chemotherapy treatment of rheumatic diseases. Rheumatology, 42(10), 1149-1154. Oxford Academic. https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/keg312
Streitberger, K., Diefenbacher, M., Bauer, A., Conradi, R., Bardenheuer, H., Martin, E., Schneider, A., & Unnebrink, K. (2004). Acupuncture compared to placebo-acupuncture for postoperative nausea and vomiting prophylaxis: A randomised placebo-controlled patient and observer blind trial. Anaesthesia Peri-operative Medicine, Critical Care, and Pain, 59(2), 142-149. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2044.2004.03577.x