Acupuncture and massage can help reduce cancer-related pain, sleep loss

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A new study led by experts from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has found the benefits of acupuncture and massage for advanced cancer patients.

While previous studies have shown their pain-relieving effects, this research directly compared both modalities.

The findings show that both acupuncture and massage alleviate musculoskeletal pain and improve patients’ fatigue, insomnia, and overall quality of life.

Comparing Acupuncture and Massage

This study, spearheaded by gastrointestinal oncologist Dr. Andrew Epstein and integrative medicine specialist Dr. Jun Mao, enrolled nearly 300 advanced cancer patients experiencing an average worst pain score of 7 on a 10-point scale.

It aimed to determine the effects of weekly acupuncture and massage sessions over 10 weeks, followed by monthly “booster” sessions for up to 26 weeks.

The study’s results, published in JAMA Network Open, indicate that acupuncture reduced the worst pain score by an average of 2.5 points. In comparison, massage reduced 3 points, though this difference was not statistically significant.

Beyond pain relief, many patients reported feeling improvements in fatigue, sleep quality, and overall quality of life. Additionally, patients required less pain medication over time.

The researchers emphasize the need to raise awareness about the effectiveness of acupuncture and massage in relieving pain and improving the well-being of advanced cancer patients.

They also advocate for expanding coverage for these treatments to make them more accessible to a broader patient population.


The findings from this comprehensive study provide valuable insights into the benefits of acupuncture and massage for advanced cancer patients.

By directly comparing both modalities, the research underscores their potential to alleviate pain, reduce fatigue, enhance sleep quality, and ultimately improve the overall quality of life for individuals facing advanced cancer.

Raising awareness and expanding coverage for these treatments can offer much-needed relief and support to patients during their cancer journey.

If you care about cancer, please read studies about A common blood thinner can help fight cancer and findings of Heavy alcohol drinking is common in cancer patients.

For more information about pain, please see recent studies about How dietary strategies can help manage chronic pain and results showing that How omega-3 fats can help manage pain relief.

The research findings can be found in JAMA Network Open.

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