CHICAGO (Reuters) – Acupuncture helped alleviate lingering pain and decreased shoulder mobility in people who had surgery for head and neck cancer, U.S. researchers said on Saturday.

The ancient Chinese therapy also resulted in significant improvements in extreme dry mouth or xerostomia, which often occurs in people who have had radiation treatment for head and neck cancer, they said at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York studied 70 patients who were at least three months past their surgery and radiation treatments.

About half got standard treatments, which include physical therapy and treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs. The other half got standard treatment plus a weekly acupuncture session.

After four weeks, 39 percent of those who got acupuncture reported improvements in pain and mobility, compared with only 7 percent in people who got typical care.

“Although further study is needed, these data support the potential role of acupuncture in addressing post neck-dissection pain and dysfunction, as well as xerostomia,” Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Dr. David Pfister said at the meeting.

Acupuncture, which has been used for more than 2,000 years, involves stimulating certain points on the body with needles, heat, pressure or electricity.

More than 8 million Americans use acupuncture for different ailments, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is often used to treat cancer pain or help with chronic fatigue.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Anthony Boadle)