Latest research: acupuncture and joint pain

Joint pain is a common side effect of the aromatase inhibitors anastrozole, letrozole and exemestane. These hormone therapy drugs are often prescribed for postmenopausal women with hormone-positive breast cancer.

In December 2017, American researchers presented results from a clinical trial that found that acupuncture may reduce joint pain caused by aromatase inhibitors.

The trial involved 226 postmenopausal women diagnosed with early breast cancer who were taking an aromatase inhibitor. All of the women participating in the trial had been experiencing joint pain that was rated three or higher on a pain scale out of 10. The women were randomly allocated into three groups:

  • 110 women received 18 sessions of acupuncture (two sessions per week over a six-week period, followed by one session per week for an additional six weeks)
  • 59 women received ‘sham acupuncture’ (a procedure made to feel like real acupuncture)
  • 57 women received no treatment. Participants were asked about their pain in several ways, including by a questionnaire that asked them to rate their pain on a scale of zero to 10.

The number of women who had the greatest reduction in their pain (a drop in pain of two or more points) was highest in the group receiving acupuncture (58 per cent) compared to those receiving sham acupuncture (33 per cent) and women receiving no treatment (31 per cent).

If you are taking an aromatase inhibitor and experiencing joint pain, you may like to talk to your doctor about whether acupuncture may be helpful for you.

Issue 82
Autumn 2018