Simulated acupuncture - sometimes referred to as placebo - is just as beneficial as real acupuncture for treating nausea in cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy, according to a study from Karolinska Institutet and Linköping University in Sweden. Patients, who received only standard care including medications for nausea, felt significant more nausea than patients in both the acupuncture groups.
"The beneficial effects seem not to come from the traditional acupuncture method, but probably from the patients' positive expectations and the extra care that the treatment entails," says Anna Enblom, physiotherapist and researcher at the Osher Centre for Integrative Medicine at Karolinska Institutet. "The patients communicated with the physiotherapists administering the acupuncture, received tactile stimulation and were given extra time for rest and relaxation."
The study, which is published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE, included 277 patients at Linköping and Lund university hospitals and Karolinska University Hospital in Solna, all of whom were undergoing radiotherapy of the abdomen or pelvic region for cancer. A selection of 215 patients from this group, were blindly assigned traditional or simulated acupuncture. The former group (109 patients) had needles inserted into their skin to stimulate certain points, and the latter (106 patients) had blunt telescopic placebo needles merely pressed against the skin. The acupuncture patients were then compared with 62 patients who had only received the standard care regime with medications for nausea and no acupuncture.