GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- A side effect from some breast cancer treatments is joint pain. One way to help alleviate that pain is through acupuncture.

A new clinical trial being conducted in Grand Rapids is still looking for patients to help manage their pain.

The Eastern medicinal practice of treating pain thru acupuncture is still considered a new idea in the United States, even after nearly 45 years.

"There's not a lot of clinical trials that have been done showing its efficacy," says Craig Houchen, an acupuncturist for Saint Mary's Wege Institute. Houchen is trying to change that.

Houchen heads up the Grand Rapids end of a clinical trial for early stage breast cancer patients who have joint pain as a side effect of taking an aromatase inhibitor.

"Using some sort of complimentary medication like the acupuncture makes them want to take the medication more," says Houchen.

The clinical trial is called SHAM Acupuncture.

Houchen can't legally talk about the specific aspects of the trial because it could taint the outcome, but he says patients who receive similar treatments say they have relief from their pain through acupuncture.

"There are some patients that I treat and they get relief almost immediately and there are those that it takesfive to sixtreatments before they start to get incremental relief from the pain. It's a very individualized medicine," says Houchen.

Houchen says in the nearly eight years he's been practicing acupuncture in Grand Rapids he's seen a growth in patients wanting an alternative to traditional western medicine.

"It's amazing how much response there is to even what I do. I think people are just that much more informed seeking means of treatment other than pharmaceuticals and surgeries."

Mark Ellis is one of those patients he receives acupuncture treatments every two weeks to help manage his back pain. I've always not liked to take a lot of medicines and I always want to do alternatives before I seek the medical route," says Ellis.

And Houchen says he sees that opinion reflected in the number of women signing up for the clinical trial.

"Grand Rapids, at our level, we have captured the most patients even ahead of Columbia University who is in charge of the whole program," says Houchen.

In addition to helping women with breast cancer manager their joint pain, Houchen hopes the clinical trial will give the practice of acupuncture more credibility and patients more options.

The acupuncture clinical trial is for breast cancer patients currently taking an aromatase inhibitor who are experiencing joint pain.

To participate contact:

Grand Rapids Clinical Oncology Program
145 Michigan NE, Suite 5200
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
(616) 391-1230