Chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) occurs in 10 to 20% of cancer patients treated with neurotoxic chemotherapy. A mixture of sensory, sensorimotor and autonomic nervous system dysfunction can occur, resulting in deterioration in function and worsened quality of life. A major feature is discomfort and pain. Early termination of treatment and dose reduction of chemotherapy may be necessary. The clinical course is variable and depends on the chemotherapy agents and their cumulative dose. Although symptoms can resolve completely, in most patients CIPN is either only partially reversible or completely irreversible. Current management for CIPN is symptomatic using membrane stabilising medications and antidepressants. The use of nerve growth factors is still experimental.
Dysaesthesia and pain involving the feet and hands are described in both traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Western biomedicine. In TCM, the pathogenesis is related to the inability to direct Qi and Blood to the extremities, and is associated with Qi, Blood, Yang and Kidney deficiencies. Acupuncture is moderately effective in treating diabetic neuropathy. However, to date, there is no report of the usefulness of acupuncture for CIPN.
We report the result of a pilot prospective case series of five patients treated with an acupuncture protocol that aims to correct Qi, Blood and Yang deficiencies and directs Qi and Blood to the extremities, with the goal of improving the symptoms of CIPN. The responses were encouraging, and cannot be easily explained by the known neurophysiological mechanisms of acupuncture.
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