Acupuncture, osteopathy and cancer

I went to my physiotherapist yesterday to help sort out my stiff neck and he had two slightly disturbing things to tell me…

  1. The national governing body for physiotherapists has decreed that anyone with cancer should no longer have acupuncture as there appears to be a link between acupuncture and the growth of tumours. (Apparently the acupuncture increases blood flow which encourages the tumours to grow.) As I had acupuncture all the way through my chemo and rads (from someone other than this physio) this was news to me! My physio said he would not be allowed to give me any acupuncture for anything ever again!

  2. Chemotherapy can alter bone structure and weaken it, and therefore no ‘crunching’ of spine or other bones should be undertaken - you know the sort of things I mean, when an osteopath twists your neck and it cracks to relieve stiffness. He said there is a risk of fracture and that it would apply for the rest of my life and I should never allow anyone to do this to me. Shame, as my neck could do with a real crunching right now.

I’m not sure what to believe of this, quite frankly. My onc has consistently recommended acupuncture for relief of hot flushes and his last recommendation was last week, so he obviously hasn’t heard of this either! The only warning I had about weak bones was the risk of osteoporosis and possibility of damage to a couple of ribs due to rads, which might make them weak later in life.

Anyone else come across this?


Very worried to hear this. Accupuncture is the only thing that keeps me sane through all this BC cr*p! (well, semi-sane :wink:

I will ask my accupuncturist tomorrow - but I find the link to growth of tumours very hard to believe. Accupuncture has been used successfully for thousands of years - unlike conventional medicine!

There is so much bashing of complementary therapies going on at the moment, it’s depressing.

This is alarming!! I have been having acupuncture from my NHS physio who has also been mobilising the joints in my spine. She is a senior physio but checked with her supervisor before starting acupuncture.

I’m going to do a search for any documents on this although I think my access into the national body for physios might be restricted.
Helen - is it possible to ask your physio for more information to post on this site?

If i find anything I’ll post again. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
Elinda x

I can’t find anything to suggest that acupuncture shouldn’t be given to cancer patients. Here is a link from the National Cancer Institute (US) re acupuncture and research:

Helen - if you do speak to your physio would you mind asking him for the actual research reference? I have a feeling that this may be a knee jerk reaction to something they’ve found.

bw, Elinda x

HI all

I agree with you, I haven’t found anything out online about this - I’m seeing him again today, and will ask him for a reference.

I’ll be continuing to have acupuncture (just not with this physio). As far as I’m concerned I don’t have a tumour any more! I can maybe see their point if you have an active tumour then maybe acupuncture directly to it might make a difference if it increases blood flow, but I think that is not necessarily the case with most of us.

I’ll let you know later


I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Helen. Like so many things it seems it’s probably a case of weighing up potential benefits against risk…
Unfortunately the physio who gave me acupuncture as well has just gone on a sabbatical travelling the world. I will ask the new physio if she’s heard anything when I see her later this month.
I have also had acupuncture separately from this intially to help me get through chemo and then post treatment - I think unless I hear strong evidence to the contrary I will continue.
bw, Elinda x


forgot to ask him - that’s my tamoxifen-riddled brain for you! Will ask when I go back next Wed.


I know that feeling all too well! My husband says I’m so forgetful now on tamoxifen and I have lists absolutely everywhere…
Elinda x

Asked my accupuncturist today, he hadn’t heard anything about it! He reckoned a rule like that would be very difficult to implement.

Just an update (remember to ask him today!)

Apparantly it is a new rule from his governing body, which only covers acupuncture for pain relief and stiffness, which is the only thing he is licensed to do. And the only elements licensed under the NHS. As for acupuncture for hot flushes or nausea or anything not licensed, this is not covered by the governing body, so does not apply.

I think it’s all to do with money and insurance to be honest. It really relates to acupuncture causing increased blood flow, which is one of the ways it relieves pain. This can also increase tumour growth, so should be avoided in cancer patients.

My physio’s attitude was that the guidelines may well change again next year but till they do he is not insured to give acupuncture to me.

Not sure that that’s helped really!