My mother-in-law has had a couple of operations and always seems to struggle with intense nausea afterwards. Now she’s scheduled for a total knee replacement and scared silly about the nausea and throwing up afterwards. I saw a TV special that talked about using acupuncture to avoid these complications. Does this really work?

Acupuncture as a healing tool has been around for many, many years. In fact, it is one of the oldest medical arts. The use of modern acupuncture is increasing in popularity for pain and other health conditions.

Nausea after surgery is one of the areas that has been studied quite a bit. Results using before and after sessions of acupuncture to reduce pain, nausea, and vomiting have been very promising.

How does it work? Well, that’s a good question and one that no one seems to have an exact answer to just yet. The basic idea behind acupuncture is that by placing a needle through the skin, blocked channels of energy called meridians can be reopened. The result is a balancing of the body’s energy flow (called Qi, pronounced “chee”). Meridians flow through every part of the body from head-to-toe.

Some acupoints increase the flow of energy for a specific physiologic function such as gastric motility (good for constipation). Others calm it down (good for nausea and vomiting).

Don’t hesitate to ask your mother-in-laws surgeon about this problem and possible solutions. More than ever before anesthesiologists and other physicians are receiving training in acupuncture to use along with more traditional medical approaches.

It’s possible that someone in your mother-in-law’s community is available to provide such treatment. Not all insurance companies cover the cost yet so bear that in mind as well.