Written by Karen Pilkington, Edzard Ernst and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated July 14, 2015

Acupuncture for breathlessness

Abstract and key points

  • Acupuncture usually entails the needling of specific points located on the body surface.
  • The effectiveness of acupuncture for cancer-related breathlessness is uncertain; few trials are available and their findings are not encouraging.
  • Serious complications of acupuncture exist but are probably very rare.

Acupuncture typically entails needling specific points of the body surface. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) philosophy, illness is caused by imbalances of energies in the body, and acupuncture is a treatment that re-balances energies. Therefore, it is claimed to be helpful in most human conditions. Many providers advocate it for a wide range of conditions and symptoms, including cancer-related breathlessness.

However, published data on the efficacy of acupuncture for breathlessness are scarce and not encouraging.

Mild adverse effects can be expected in about 10% of all cases, and serious complications, such as pneumothorax and hepatitis, seem to be very rare.

Read about the regulation, supervision and reimbursement of acupuncture at NAFKAMs website CAM Regulation.

Citation

Karen Pilkington, Edzard Ernst, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Acupuncture for breathlessness [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Mind-body-interventions/Acupuncture-for-breathlessness. July 14, 2015.

Document history

Revised and updated in July 2015 by Karen Pilkington.
Summary first published in July 2013, authored by Edzard Ernst.

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