The best evidence for acupuncture’s effectiveness is with postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV). The latest systematic review, based on 40 trials and nearly 5,000 patients, found acupuncture to be significantly better than sham treatment and at least as good as anti-emetic drugs, with minimal side-effects. Trials published since this review gathered its data have also been consistently positive.
In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promote relaxation.
Acupuncture treatment for nausea and vomiting may help to alleviate nausea and vomiting by:
regulating gastric myo-electrical activity
•modulating the actions of the vagal nerve and autonomic nervous system
reducing vasopressin-induced nausea and vomiting and suppressing retrograde peristaltic contractions
regulating vestibular activities in the cerebellum