Simulated acupuncture is just as effective as real acupuncture for treating nausea in cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.
Patients who received only standard care, including medications for nausea, felt significantly more nausea than patients in both the acupuncture groups, reports the journal PLoS ONE.
"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," said study author Anna Enblom.
"The patients communicated with the physiotherapists administering the acupuncture, received tactile stimulation and were given extra time for rest and relaxation," said Enblom, researcher at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.
The study included 277 patients at Linkoping and Lund university hospitals and Karolinska University Hospital in Solna, all of whom were undergoing radiotherapy of the abdomen or pelvic region for cancer, according to a Karolinska Institutet statement.
A selection of 215 patients from this group was 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 results show that the patients who had received genuine or simulated acupuncture felt much less nauseous than those who had received standard care only.
The patients` expectations seemed to be important for the effect: 81 percent of those who expected to feel ill did so, in contrast to only 50 percent of those who did not.