Post‐operative nausea and vomiting (PONV) is a fairly widespread problem in the field of anaesthetics. Defined as nausea, retching or vomiting within 24 hours of surgery, PONV apparently affects around 20-30% of all patients. This is more than just an unpleasant side effect of surgery since it can lead to increased recovery times and delays in giving people the treatments they need. Research has shown that in many cases patients are more concerned with PONV than the surgery itself (Watcha & White, 1992).

A recently published systematic review (Cheong et al., 2013), shows that acupuncture can be useful in the prevention and treatment of PONV. Multiple studies show that acupuncture treatments which include the use of the acupuncture point PC6, located close to the inner wrist, can significantly reduce the number of cases of PONV. Considering the long list of side-effects that PONV can have on patients – ranging from dehydration and electrolyte imbalance to potentially life-threatening airway compromise – it is remarkable that such a simple acupuncture treatment can have such far reaching effects.

Again, as with much research on complementary therapies, many of the studies on PONV and acupuncture do not reach the minimum requirements for inclusion in a systematic review. For example, of the 186 studies which matched the research topic, only 30 studies met the inclusion criteria for meta-analysis.

The review concludes that acupuncture can be a useful safe, cost-effective and beneficial method for preventing and treating PONV. Additionally, it shows that electro-acupuncture can also have an analgesic effect on the body which can improve and enhance the anaesthetic effect pre-surgery, that several points other than PC6 on the inner wrist also have beneficial effect, and that given these initial findings, further high quality research is called for.

Stimulation of PC6, the acupuncture point on the inner wrist, is a well known point for alleviating nausea whether you have had surgery or not! There are hundreds of websites with photos showing you how to give yourself acupressure on the wrist if you suffer from nausea: e.g. See this Wikihow page for stopping nausea:

http://www.wikihow.com/Stop-Nausea-With-Acupressure

To seek an acupuncture practitioner in the York area, see http://www.yorkclinic.com/therapies/acupuncture.aspx.

References

Cheong, K.B., Zhang, J., Huang, Y. & Zhang, Z. (2013) The Effectiveness of Acupuncture in Prevention and Treatment of Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting – A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE, 8 (12), p.p.e82474. Available from:  [Accessed 29 January 2014].

Watcha, M.F. & White, P.F. (1992) Postoperative nausea and vomiting: its etiology, treatment, and prevention. Anesthesiology, 77 (1), p.pp.162–184. Available from:  [Accessed 29 January 2014].