Pain and Symptom Relief for Cancer Patients

Research has proven complementary medicine including acupuncture is effective at controlling and minimizing many of the unwanted side effects of cancer treatment, and we are experts in helping you feel better.

This was my first visit and I was impressed with the thoroughness of Lisa Nicholson. She is a great listener and was quick to evaluate my situation and decide on the appropriate treatment. She started my therapy with the confidence borne of a consumate professional. I have booked a follow up appointment and I am anticipating a very positive outcome.

Doug P

My prostate cancer was stage 4 when it was found. I had surgery followed by radiation which left me with pain, incontinence, and difficulty maintaining an erection. I was also given hormone therapy which gave me hot flashes, mood swings, and horrible brain fog. I took some time out from work while I was recovering from the surgery and going through radiation, but the brain fog was making it so hard to focus I was concerned about being able to do my job. Lisa was very thorough in her evaluation, listened to all of my concerns, and her treatments helped relieve my pain, decreased the hot flashes, and best of all, helped me be able to concentrate again. I’ll definitely go back if I have other health concerns!

Sam R


I came to Balboa Park Holistic Wellness Center 2 years after having chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. My hands and feet were still tingling and were getting so painful it was hard to walk on the beach. I wasn’t ready to be sedentary yet! Within the first 3 visits my pain level was down and I was starting to have moments of feeling “normal”. It’s not perfect, but the neruopathy is so much better and I feel like I have my life back.

Karen A


The breast cancer diagnosis was such a shock, and I saw Lisa about a week later. I really wasn’t sure I wanted to go through with the treatment my doctor recommended. Lisa helped me get really clear about the questions I needed to ask my doctor to feel comfortable with making the right decisions for myself, and the acupuncture helped make me so much calmer. I’m having a lumpectomy at the end of the month and will be coming back for more acupuncture with Lisa to help me recover from the surgery.

Marina K

I want to thank you so much for your healing treatment as well as for recommending I see my chiropractor. I feel so much better after one visit!

Eleanor B

Here are some of the symptoms we’ve helped cancer patients manage:

  • Post-operative Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Chronic Upset Stomach
  • Fatigue
  • Chemo-brain
  • Neuropathy
  • Insomnia
  • Mood Swings
  • Hot Flashes
  • Vaginal Dryness

Your initial consultation is free. Come meet us in person and learn more.

Click below to learn more.

Click now to request your free consultation.

Or,  just call 619-772-4002 and we'll be happy to answer your questions.

Read more about: What We Do | Our Philosophy | Our Awesome Staff | Our Privacy Policy | Accessibility


Lisa’s approach is gentle and knowledgeable. I relaxed just being in her presence and the results from the session lasted long after the session was over.

Jill B

Here’s How We Help You Thrive Through Treatment and Beyond:

At Diagnosis

In your initial 90 minute appointment, we’ll sit down with you and take a detailed medial  history, look at your labs and other diagnostic information, and review your oncology team’s treatment plan. We’ll help you make sense of all the medical jargon and translate that plan into something you can understand. They we’ll come up with a plan to support you while you receive your care. Plans may include acupuncture, moxibustion, nutrition recommendations, focused meditation or breathing exercises, supplements or herbs, and more. Our goal is to help you minimize side effects and thrive through your treatment.

Before and After Surgery

Acupuncture before and after surgery has been demonstrated to reduce healing times AND reduce the need for post-operative narcotics. If your treatment plan includes surgery, we’ll work with you before your scheduled procedure to make sure your body is as strong and healthy going in as it can be. And as soon as your surgeon says it’s ok we’ll be there to help manage your post-operative pain. With acupuncture, moxibustion, and targeted nutrition, we can help to minimize surgical side effects including swelling, lymphedema, connective-tissue cording, and more. 

Link to Study: Perioperative acupuncture medicine: a novel concept instead of acupuncture anesthesia

During Chemotherapy

LLIf your treatment plans includes chemotherapy, we can help to make the whole process smoother. Complementary medicine including acupuncture are great at managing treatment-related anxiety and pain, as well as providing supportive care for nausea, fatigue, brain fog, neuropathy, dry mouth (xerostoma), neutropenia (low white blood cell count), anemia and other common side effects of chemotherapy. We’ll review the medications you’ll be given, look at the most likely side effects, and create a customized plan to help you get through it.


Link to Study: The Value of Acupuncture in Cancer Care

Link to Study: Acupuncture and Immunity

During Radiation

If your treatment plan includes radiation therapy, we can help to minimize and relieve many common symptoms patients experience. The most common issues patients report include fatigue, skin irritation, lymphedema, neuropathy, dry mouth, and difficulty swallowing. Studies have shown that acupuncture can effectively relieve many of these symptoms. Once you have your radiation treatment plan, our team will create a customized plan to support you through your care and through the healing when your care is completed.

Link to Study: Use of acupuncture to alleviate side effects in radiation oncology: Current evidence and future directions

After Treatment is Done

LCancer treatment is great at putting cancer into remission, AND it’s hard on any rapidly dividing cells in the body. Many patients discover that when active treatment is done they still don’t feel as good as they’d like and conventional medicine doesn’t have much to offer at this phase of care. Patients are “graduated” from the oncology unit and told they’ll be seen in 6 months after the next scan or bloodwork. But fatigue, neuropathy, concerns about reoccurrence, anxiety, depression, pain, and more can linger. Complementary medicine has tremendous benefit at this phase in the cancer treatment process. We’ll create a comprehensive survivorship plan to provide ongoing support through acupuncture, nutrition counseling, targeted supplements and herbs, exercise recommendations, and more to help our patients rebuild and restore what has been compromised and challenged during active care, and to help minimize the possibility of the cancer returning.

Link to Study: Evidence Grows for Acupuncture Treatment in Cancer Survivors

Link to Study: Acupuncture for Aromatase Inhibitor–Related Joint Pain Among Breast Cancer Patients

When There's Nothing Left to Do

The hard truth is that not every cancer patient recovers and thrives. When medical options have been exhausted and it is time to prepare for letting go, we can still help. Our services provide a wonderful addition to palliative care. We can help patients at the end of life with managing pain, relieving breathing difficulties, reducing anxiety, and remaining as comfortable as possible. In addition to our other skills, our team is trained in Hospice Acupuncture and we even can even provide in-home care on a limited basis. Our goal is to help our patients LIVE as fully as possible until it is time to go, and then to GO peacefully.

Link to Study: Acupuncture to Treat the Symptoms of Patients in a Palliative Care Setting

Link to Study: Effectiveness of acupuncture for palliative care in cancer patients: a systematic review

Care for Caretakers

Going through cancer treatment takes a village. Caretakers are beside their loved ones through the whole journey, and can experience their own fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, and more. In addition to taking care of cancer patients, we provide comprehensive emotional and physical support to the caretakers who have such a critical role. Through acupuncture, focused breathing exercises, meditations, and more we help the people caring for our patients to stay healthy and strong for their loved one.

Lisa takes a lot of time to discuss what’s going on, answer questions, go over treatments and make suggestions. Being under her care is encouraging and reassuring.

Pablo M

***Individual results vary. No guarantee of specific results is warranted or implied and your results will depend on many factors.

Common Questions

Does it Hurt?

The needles are extremely thin, and super sharp. In fact, you can fit at least 10 of them into a typical hypodermic syringe. They’re nearly painless because they are so tiny.

How do I know it’s safe?

Acupuncture has been practiced safely for centuries, and in the hands of an experienced practitioner it’s virtually risk-free.

How long does it take to see results?

People often feel a shift after the very first treatment, but lasting results require a series of visits. Acupuncture is a very powerful way to stimulate endorphin release, which is the most powerful relaxing substance the body makes. Most people experience significant relief within 2-3 months of consistent treatment.

Is there any risk of infection?

In compliance with California and Federal regulations, our needles are sterile, single-use, and disposable. There is no risk of getting an infection from the needles. If you have an immune or other condition we should know about, we’ll make sure to cover that with you before treatment.

Will your treatment mess with my medication?

We always review medications before making treatment recommendations to make sure that there are no unwanted interactions. Sometimes what we do actually makes your medication work better!

Does my insurance cover it?

Every insurance plan is different. While we are not “in-network” with most insurance plans, we will provide you with the paperwork you need to submit bills for our services. Many plans have at least some acupuncture benefit, and you can also use flexible spending plans and HSA funds for your treatments.

Will I be able to go back to work after a treatment?

Treatments are painless, and do not interfere with your daily function. You will probably feel more relaxed following a treatment which may make your work day go more smoothly!

Are there any side effects?

The “worst” side effects are bruising and/or mild soreness where the needles were inserted, and these are extremely rare. There are many “positive” side effects include calmer mood, better sleep, improved digestion, increased relaxation, and a more positive attitude and outlook.

Lisa Nicholson, L.Ac., DNBAO is a master acupuncturist, licensed in California and nationally certified. She is a skilled nutrition and wellness coach, with a passion for helping people experiencing physical and emotional pain to reconnect with their passion for living. As a breast cancer survivor, she is uniquely aware of what cancer patients experience from the moment of diagnosis through the entire treatment process.

The child of a teacher and a dentist in a family chock full of physicians, psychologists, and lawyers, Lisa chose a different path. Since childhood, Lisa has been drawn to helping people overcome physical and emotional challenges to live fulfilling and rich lives. Although she was pre-med with her psychology major at SUNY Albany, she found she didn’t resonate with “conventional” medicine and instead, went on to complete a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. After 8 years of working with people struggling with mental illness and addiction, she was looking for a new challenge. As a career counselor, Lisa “tried on” nearly every medical tradition, ultimately settling on Chinese Medicine because it was the one system which fully embraced her philosophy about the interconnectedness of mind and body and offered a treatment system which simultaneously addresses both. Lisa completed her MSTOM at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and has completed post-graduated education in the field of Integrative Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering and the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.

Lisa is an endurance athlete who has participated in competitive swimming, cross-country, downhill and water skiing, backpacking, rock climbing, and cycling. At age 29, a water skiing crash left her with a major injury to her back, neck, and shoulders, and threatened to disable her. But Lisa was determined to get back into her athletic pursuits. Because all of her injuries were non-surgical soft-tissue problems, conventional medicine had nothing to offer except drugs. Lisa instead turned to chiropractic and her yoga practice to gradually heal her injuries. It was during a yoga teacher training class where she had an epiphany that much of her ongoing pain was due her fear and resistance to feeling more pain. Through a meditation with a partner, she gradually and gently unlocked the spasms which had bound her back for months, guiding herself back to the movement she needed to heal. Since then, she has continued her yoga practice and taken up first rock climbing and then cycling, training over a period of years to the ultra-cycling world. Now, 100 miles is a training ride, and Lisa has successfully finished events including Race Across the West and Paris-Brest-Paris.

As a breast cancer survivor, Lisa is particularly passionate about helping other cancer patients to get through their treatment and restore their health and well being. She has experienced the pain of surgery, the nausea and fatigue of chemotherapy, the fear and frustration of landing in the emergency room with sepsis following one of her treatments, and the skin irritation associated with radiation therapy.  She has successfully returned to her athletic lifestyle following treatment. 

Lisa loves to travel, and especially likes to experience other cultures through their food. She is a skilled gourmet cook, and brings her fascination with all things culinary into the clinic with nutrition recommendations, recipes, and more

When she’s not in the clinic or on her bike, you can find Lisa at home in her kitchen or reading with her husband and Percy, the cat who shares her spirit of adventure and zest for fine food

Your initial consultation is free. Come meet us in person and learn more.

Click below to learn more.

Click now to request your free consultation.

Or,  just call 619-772-4002 and we'll be happy to answer your questions.

Read more about: What We Do | Our Philosophy | Our Awesome Staff | Our Privacy Policy | Accessibility


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