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Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese practice of manipulating very fine needles through the skin at specific points on the body. It is used most commonly to treat pain. The traditional belief is that energy or life force (called qi or chi [chee]). Chi is believed to flow through pathways (called meridians) in the body. Acupuncture reflows chi and restores balance to the body’s energy flow.1 The modern or Western definition of acupuncture is that the needles, placed at specific nerve points, stimulate the nerves, muscles, and connective tissues, which increases blood flow and boosts the body’s natural painkillers.1

Some patients with cancer have used acupuncture to ease chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Patients are advised to check that the acupuncturist is reputable. Acupuncture needles should be disposable, one-time use only. You should ask the acupuncturist about their protocols for needle use.1

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Distraction is the use of a highly interesting activity that takes the patient’s mind off of his or her pain or discomfort. It can be help patients who are anxious, feeling nauseous, or in pain. Activities that are effective distracters include listening to music, art, dance, imagery, and virtual reality and computer games. Daily living activities that also effectively distract your mind include talking with friends or relatives, watching television, listening to the radio, reading, or working on a hobby.

Reflexology is the application of pressure to the hands and feet based on a system of zones and reflex areas.2 The practitioner uses specific finger, thumb, and hand techniques to apply the pressure in a way that affects changes in the body. According to Kunz and Kunz, studies conducted by nurses in 10 countries demonstrated that reflexology helps patients with cancer after chemotherapy sessions, during the postoperative period, with symptom management, and as part of their palliative/hospice care.2

Patients with cancer should be aware of several cautions when considering reflexology. It should be avoided during active treatment or if you are experiencing any swelling in the foot or lower leg. Pressure should not be applied directly to any known tumor sites or to lumps that may be cancerous. If your bones are fragile for any reason, physical manipulation or deep pressure should be avoided. In addition, patients who also have chronic conditions (such as arthritis and heart disease) should talk to their health care team before having any type of therapy that involves moving the joints and muscles.3 ONA


1. Acupuncture. Mayo Clinic Web site. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acupuncture/MY00946. Accessed March 21, 2012.

2. Kunz B, Kunz K. What is reflexology? Reflexology Research Presents Web site. http://www.reflexology-research.com/whatis.htm. Accessed March 21, 2012

3. Reflexology. American Cancer Society Web site. http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/ManualHealingandPhysicalTouch/reflexology. Accessed March 21, 2012.


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