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Home > Newsletters > April 2003

Ask the Doctor

Q: Is it best to receive acupuncture the day before or the day after chemo treatment for breast cancer to relieve nausea?

A: Julie Argyle writes: Many studies have been published confirming the efficacy of acupuncture for nausea from chemotherapy, but there is very little solid research concerning the best timing for acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture can be done before, during, and/or after chemotherapy. In my experience, the most effective time for acupuncture depends on a variety of factors.

The anticipated time of the onset of nausea is a factor in the timing of acupuncture. Most chemotherapeutic agents used for breast cancer are metabolized in the body within 48 to 72 hours. This is the time period that nausea can occur. Individual sensitivity affects how quickly chemotherapy is metabolized, which in turn can affect when nausea will occur if left untreated. Different individuals will experience nausea at different times -- anywhere from immediately following chemotherapy, to the first, second, or third day after. Some people with high levels of Anxiety can even experience nausea before chemotherapy. If you have high Anxiety levels, you should consider acupuncture before chemotherapy (the same day). If I know a person typically experiences nausea from past chemotherapy, I try to schedule acupuncture up to eight hours prior to the chemotherapy treatment. (Some studies suggest that the antiemetic properties of acupuncture can last up to 8 hours.) If there is no history of prior chemotherapy, I prefer to schedule acupuncture the day after chemo treatment. This seems to be the time when most nausea is likely to occur if left untreated.

The anticipated severity of symptoms is another factor in the timing and frequency of acupuncture. The emetic potential of different chemotherapeutic agents varies. Individual sensitivity will also affect severity of symptoms and can be determined by a TCM evaluation. Based on your TCM evaluation and the type of chemotherapy you will receive, your acupuncturist can anticipate the likelihood and severity of side effects that you might experience. If your nausea is likely to be mild, one acupuncture treatment is usually sufficient. For moderate nausea, two acupuncture treatments are usually scheduled. If the practitioner determines that your nausea could be severe, I would suggest a more aggressive acupuncture approach: perhaps treatment before chemo the same day, during chemo, and after chemo daily for one to three days. In most cases, this is not necessary.

Q: I am a 41-year-old woman with rosacea and would like to know how TCM can treat this frustrating skin condition. My doctor has prescribed antibiotics but they have not helped.

A: Ann Rosen writes: Rosacea, like all Western diagnoses, must first be placed in a TCM context. From our perspective, this condition can have a variety of presentations, each with its own unique etiology. Often, patients with rosacea and similar skin conditions exhibit symptoms of heat (e.g., blood heat, heat toxin or trapped heat) that may have resulted from improper diet or an external pathogen and/or stagnation due to the impaired flow of qi and blood. Such conditions are considered imbalances that can cause a multitude of health issues over time, and in your case, this skin condition is one of the results. In many cases, antibiotics will exacerbate the condition because it can impair digestion and lead to further stagnation and heat.

In order to treat your condition effectively, a practitioner must determine the root of your imbalance. An extensive interview would be geared toward learning more about your skin condition (nature, location, duration, onset, etc.) and your overall health and lifestyle history. These details, along with the information your practitioner will discover during a thorough tongue and pulse examination, will provide clues about the underlying cause of your rosacea. Ultimately, your condition could be attributed to many causes ranging from stress, diet or a previous illness to an emotional or physical trauma or any combination of these. Once your practitioner determines a diagnosis, she/he can formulate a treatment plan using acupuncture and herbal medicine. Often a practitioner will also make suggestions for dietary and lifestyle changes that can also help restore balance and alleviate the condition.

Q: I have a compressed disk - L5 - and chronic lower back pain. There is partial numbness in the back of the right leg from the buttock to the knee. Can I expect any relief from acupuncture?

A: Fred Russo writes: There have been many good studies on the treatment of chronic low back pain. I have seen many patients with similar medical histories and symptoms and have offered relief via acupuncture.

I also use Chinese herbal medicine as part of the treatment. You can expect significant improvement upon several consecutive sessions. Complete relief may take more time, depending on your compliance with supplementation, diet, light exercise and massage therapy.

Q: Can acupuncture help symptoms of depression?

A: Yali Fan writes: Yes. The common symptoms of depression are feeling sad, irritable or anxious; crying easily; lacking self-confidence; having low self-esteem; poor concentration; indecisiveness; negative expectations; hopelessness; helplessness; fatigue; insomnia or hypersomnia. Some patients may have other kinds of pain.

Acupuncture treatments can relax and calm the mind to help depression, anxiety and sleep disorders as well as improve energy to relive fatigue and related negative symptoms. For patients with other kinds of physical pain, acupuncture can relieve the symptoms and, thus, help the patients feel better.

About our Doctors:

Fred Russo is an acupuncturist at WellSpanís Center for Mind Body Health. He specializes in womenís health issues and pain management. Russo also has six years of experience as a licensed nurse with a focus on geriatrics and physical rehabilitation.

Julie Argyle received her masterís degree from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in 1994. She is an acupuncturist at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute where she participates in herbal and acupuncture research and provides clinical care for cancer patients.

Ann Tomoko Rosen, M.S.T.O.M., L.Ac., C.A., is one of the Co-Founders of the Center for Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine in NYC and a Principal of Acupuncture Health Associates in New Jersey. Ann and her husband, Ross Rosen, utilize an integrative approach to healing, combining acupuncture, herbal medicine, eastern nutrition and taiji/qigong. Together they lecture frequently on various health issues related to acupuncture and herbal medicine. For more information please visit

Yali Fan practices Traditional Chinese medicine including acupuncture, Tuina (Chinese medical massage and pediatric massage), Qigong, herbal medicine, dietary therapy and nutrition. Dr. Fan has a medical degree from China and has 19 years of clinical and teaching experience (12 years in China and 7 years in Florida). Dr. Fan is also the author of six books.

This Month's Articles

April 2003
Volume 1, Number 4

A T'ai Chi Primer: T'ai Chi Ch'uan Explained

A Cure for PMS

Zangfu Theory and Cellular Memory

Ask The Doctor


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