A recent study has proven that the ancient therapy of acupuncture helps patients who suffer from dry mouth after radiotherapy. Dry mouth is sometimes called xerostomia and is one of the most common side effects for people who have had radiotherapy for a head and neck cancer?
WHY DO PATIENTS GET DRY MOUTH?
Patients who have had radiotherapy get dry mouth because the radiotherapy treatment can damage the saliva glands, the saliva glands sometimes are called the parotid glands. Radiotherapy works by destroying the cancer cells but can have a detrimental effect on healthy tissue like the saliva glands.
WHY IS IT SO BAD?
Dry mouth does not just mean you need to drink a lot of water , it is a really debilitating condition and affects peoples lives in a big way. Dry mouth means people can have trouble speaking, eating, drinking, with their teeth and sleeping. These are things which people take for granted and when they become difficult , it has a massive impact and can lead to depression, anxiety and other unwelcome issues.
WHY DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK ?
The study admits that it is not 100% sure why acupuncture works exactly. It could be that it stimulates the brain in ways which prompt saliva but there is not a definitive answer. What is clear is that acupuncture can help manage the symptoms of xerostomia and give people better quality of life.
WHERE CAN I GET ACUPUNCTURE FROM?
If you are recovering from cancer we always recommend checking with your medical team before embarking on any new treatments. If the medics give the go ahead then there are a few options for getting acupuncture treatment. Check with your local cancer support groups and see if they offer any acupuncture sessions, often Maggies and Macmillan can help with lots of different complementary therapies including acupuncture.
You can also look for a local acupuncturist here at the British Acupuncture Council. We would recommend using an acupuncturist that has verified by an official body like this one to make sure you are getting a qualified practitioner.
If your acupuncturist has not had experience of stimulating the saliva glands before you can take this following information about the places which were used in the study which showed the effectiveness of acupuncture. Do not worry if this does not make much sense to you, an acupuncturist will understand what this means exactly.
Needles, (0.2 × 7 mm) were inserted in both ears at the following points: Salivary Gland 2, Modified Point Zero, and Shen Men. Distally 0.16 × 25 mm needles were used bilaterally in LI2 (index finger) and LI20 (nasolabial groove at the level of the most prominent part of the ala nasi). Needles were inserted to dermis, retained for 20 min, and manually rotated at 10 minute intervals.
So, if you are suffering from dry mouth then acupuncture may well offer some relief. If you are having trouble finding a local service which can help you, or if it is too expensive let us know here and we will do our best to help you.