Palliative care, which aims to provide patients suffering from serious illnesses with meaningful relief from the symptoms and stress they are experiencing, is becoming a more prominent aspect of medical care today. Ultimately, palliative care is a holistic approach designed to improve the quality of life for both the patient and their loved ones. In this respect, it is quite well aligned with acupuncture’s holistic approach to treating illness, since acupuncture also aims to reduce stress and address symptoms in such a way that strengthens the body’s immune response and gives the patient renewed energy and vitality.
It’s important to note that palliative care is distinct from hospice care, although the two methods of treatment are sometimes confused with one another. Palliative care focuses on relieving patients’ suffering during a serious illness whether they have received a terminal diagnosis or not. In fact, it can be administered alongside curative treatment that seeks to heal the illness and restore the patient to full health. Hospice care, by contrast, tends solely to the needs of a patient who is at the end of life stage of their illness.
As palliative care is a specialized plan of care for patients with serious illnesses, it can include many diverse components—from managing pain to dealing with difficult emotions and even receiving spiritual care. Acupuncture is sometimes included as part of that plan. For example, a cancer patient’s medical team could decide to integrate acupuncture into their palliative care plan since acupuncture plays a role in reducing stress and preventing the spread of cancer. This may improve the patient’s quality of life and alleviate their stress, making the overall course of treatment less difficult and challenging during what is already by definition an exceptionally difficult time. Acupuncture can also treat other quality of life symptoms often experienced by cancer patients such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and poor appetite.
Patients who are either in the midst of a palliative care plan or anticipate the possibility of undertaking one may wish to explore the potential benefits of acupuncture as a complementary course of treatment. Studies have noted that acupuncture can be of value when pursued alongside traditional Western medical treatments. Some medical centers have even incorporated acupuncture into their palliative care programs. For improved quality of life and greater comfort during a serious illness, it may be worth considering acupuncture as part of a holistic palliative care plan.