Moxibustion may be an effective adjuvant therapy for cancer-related pain, according to study results from a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Pain Research.
Investigators from Jiangxi University of Chinese Medicine in China searched 7 publication databases through November 2022 for randomized clinical trials evaluating moxibustion in the setting of cancer pain. A total of 10 studies published between 2014 and 2021 were included in this analysis.
The analysis included 999 patients, among whom 512 received moxibustion and pain relieving medication (intervention group) and 487 received pain relieving medication in a 3-step analgesic ladder (control group).
Compared with the control group, moxibustion plus pain relieving medication was associated with a greater rate of pain relief (risk ratio [RR], 1.16; 95% CI, 1.04-1.30; P =.01) and a reduction in pain scores assessed by either the Numeric Rating Scale (NRS) or Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) scores (standardized mean difference [SMD], -1.43; 95% CI, -2.09 to -0.77; P <.0001).
The time to onset of the analgesic effect was reduced in the intervention group compared with the control group (mean difference [MD], -12.07; 95% CI, -12.91 to -11.22; P <.00001) and the analgesic effect of moxibustion lasted longer (MD, 3.69; 95% CI, 3.21-4.18; P <.00001).
Quality of life was assessed in 3 of the studies. After pooling the data, the researchers found moxibustion combined with drugs to be favored over control (SMD, 2.48; 95% CI, 0.67-4.29; P =.007). Additionally, moxibustion combined with drugs reduced the effects of constipation, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting associated with pain medications in 5 studies (RR, 0.35; 95% CI, 0.21-0.57; P <.0001).
Limitations of the analysis included a lack of generalizability since all studies were performed in China. Moreover, the analysis only included studies from English and Chinese databases which may miss potentially eligible trials. Further, most studies did not have satisfactory methodological quality and had low reporting quality which may affect the credibility of the evidence.
“The results of our meta-analysis show that moxibustion combined with pharmacotherapy is more effective than drugs alone in terms of relieving pain or improving the quality of life of cancer pain patients. In addition, moxibustion combined with drugs can effectively reduce the side effects of drugs,” the study authors noted. “But given the limitation in the meta-analysis, high quality RCTs are still needed to confirm the role of moxibustion combined with pharmacotherapy for cancer pain,” they concluded.
Li Y, Hong E, Ye W, You J. Moxibustion as an adjuvant therapy for cancer pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Pain Res. 2023;16:515-525. doi:10.2147/JPR.S396696