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Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy. Electroacupuncture & pain?

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Presenters: Barb Shay and Elizabeth Andersen Hammond


Upon completion of this workshop participants will be able to:

  • Cite some of the clinical trial literature specific to acupuncture and cancer pain
  • Recognize the design and methods required to administer a double-blind trial with sham controls
  • Clearly identify a population where electro acupuncture is ineffective and may also contribute to maintaining neuropathic pain


Acupuncture is a popular treatment choice for many breast cancer patients who have pain. The National Institute of Health consensus statement in 1997 and a prospective RCT for electro acupuncture and chemotherapy-induced emesis have led to increasing acceptance among patients and the medical community (Cohen et al, 2005; NIH consensus statement; Shen et al 2000). The efficacy for acupuncture specific to the treatment of cancer pain is limited. The current research for acupuncture and chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) treatment lack important scientific standards including; homogenous populations, sham groups, valid and reliable outcome measures, reported acupuncture points, treatment time and treatment duration (cohen, 2005; Choi et al 2012, Paley et al 2012; Lee et al, 2005; Bao et al, 2014).

Relevance to Physiotherapy Practice

This study sought to clearly answer whether a combination of acupuncture and electro acupuncture (used to strengthen the clinical response) could improve neuropathic pain, i.e. chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) symptoms in breast cancer patients exposed to taxane chemotherapy, compared to a sham control group.

Target Audience

All clinicians practicing acupuncture or working in the area of oncology.


Barbara Shay, PhD, PT graduated as a physiotherapist 35 years ago. In 1987, she became licensed to practice acupuncture within the scope of physical therapy. She became interested in the mechanisms of acupuncture analgesia which led to the completion of her PhD and her interest in pain medicine and non-pharmacological management of pain. Dr. Shay is the Head of the MPT program at the University of Manitoba and teaches in the electrophysical agents portion of the curriculum. She co-founded a comprehensive introductory acupuncture course aimed at teaching the basic technique to post-graduate physiotherapists and other trained health care personnel. She has been a frequent presenter at CPA events including acupuncture division continuing education courses.

Elizabeth Hammond has been a practicing physiotherapist for 16 years and a Certified Hand Therapist for 11 years. She continued her academic education and completed her MSc in Rehabilitation in 2007 entitled; "Objective Evaluation of Fine Motor Manipulation". She has presented research at the World Congress of Physical Therapy, CPA research days, and local rounds at Pan Am Clinic and Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg and has published her research in The Journal of Hand Therapy.

Elizabeth is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Science at the University of Manitoba. Her PhD thesis is evaluating the potential role for physical therapy and acupuncture treatment in the management of chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy in patients with breast cancer. Her research interests are in exercise and physical therapy in the treatment of neuropathic pain.

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