Researchers find a specialized acupuncture point prescription highly effective for the treatment of insomnia. Researchers at the China PLA Navy General Hospital determined that Wuhua foot acupuncture combined with body style acupuncture has a 95.24% total effective rate for the treatment of insomnia. Using shallow needling depths, the results were clinically significant. The researchers conclude that the foot Wuhua and body style acupuncture protocol is effective for the alleviate of sleep disturbances.
Wuhua foot acupuncture differs from standard foot acupuncture. In standard foot acupuncture, for example, three powerful and important acupoints for the treatment of insomnia are located on the bottom of the foot. One important point is located on the bottom of the foot at the midpoint between the medial and lateral malleoli. This acupoint is indicated for the treatment of neurasthenia, hysteria, insomnia, and low blood pressure. Its sedative effects are often remarkably effective. Another acupoint for the treatment of insomnia is located on the bottom of the foot, 5 units (cun) distal to the heel on the midline. This is complemented by a third acupoint that is located on the bottom of the foot, 5 units distal to the heel and 1 unit lateral to the midline.
Wuhua foot acupuncture is a set of 5 acupuncture points. Similar in placement to Sishencong and DU20 when applied to the vertex, Wuhua acupoints are located on the plantar surface of the heel at the tuberosity of the calcaneus (over the fat pad at the medial calcaneal tubercle). In the center, one acupuncture needle is applied to a depth of 0.2 – 0.3 mm with a 0.30 mm x 25 mm disposable acupuncture needle. Next, acupoints are inserted anteriorly, posteriorly, and laterally on the fat pad using the same type of needle and depth of insertion. Body style acupuncture points for all patients included the following:
- Baihui (DU20)
- Qihai (REN6)
- Shenmen (HT7)
- Sanyinjiao (SP6)
- Zhaohai (KD6)
Additional secondary acupuncture points were added based on differential diagnostics. Note that a control group using only the secondary acupoints based on differential diagnostics achieved a 68.29% total effective rate. However, the combination of body style points, Wuhua foot acupuncture, and secondary acupoints produced a 95.24% total effective rate. The secondary acupoints are as follows. For excess heart fire, the following acupoints were added:
- Laogong (PC8)
- Shaochong (HT9)
- Shaoze (SI1)
For Liver qi depression with pathogenic fire, the following acupoints were added:
- Taichong (LV3)
- Xingjian (LV2)
- Xiaxi (GB43)
For yin deficiency with excessive fire, the following acupoints were added:
- Xinshu (BL15)
- Shenshu (BL23)
- Taixi (KD3)
For heart and spleen deficiency, the following acupoints were added:
- Xinyu (BL15)
- Pishuu (BL20)
- Zusanli (ST36)
For internal disturbance of phlegm-heat, the following acupoints were added:
- Fenglong (ST40)
- Neiting (ST44)
- Neiguan (PC6)
For deficiency of heart and gallbladder qi, the following acupoints were added:
- Xinshu (BL15)
- Danshu (BL19)
- Daling (PC7)
- Qiuxu (GB40)
The Wuhua foot acupuncture points were needled to a depth of 0.2 – 0.3 mm. Yintang, Baihui, and Sishencong acupoints were needle to a depth of 0.5 inches. Sanyinjiao was needled perpendicularly to a depth of 1 inch. Shenmen and Zhaohai were perpendicularly needled to a depth of 0.5 inches. Yintang, Baihui, Sishencong, Shenmen, and Sanyinjiao were stimulated with a mild reinforcing and attenuating technique. The same techniques were applied to secondary acupoints that were chosen based on differential diagnostics. The total needle retention time was 30 minutes per acupuncture session. This therapy was conducted on a daily basis for 20 days.
The researchers provided the basis for the acupoint selections. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, insomnia is caused by an imbalance of yin and yang, as well as poor circulation of ying (nutritive) qi and wei (protective) qi. Sometimes this ancient theory is translated into modern terms as an imbalance of parasympathetic and sympathetic impulses combined with imbalances in the limbic system, specifically, in the hypothalamus. The biomedical correlates of Chinese medicine theory are beyond the scope of this article, but please peruse the Healthcare Medicine Institute news section for detailed articles on the biomedical basis of TCM theory. You will find a wealth of scientific data demonstrating that TCM hermeneutics is supported by cortical MRI investigations, laboratory experiments, clinical trials, and biochemical analyses. The neurobiological basis of acupuncture and TCM theory is the subject of many meta-analyses and acupuncture continuing education courses.
Acupuncture at the Baihui and Qihai acupoints, as well as other acupoints located in Governor and Conception meridians regulate yin and yang and also promote circulation of both ying and wei qi. Sishencong promotes localized qi and blood circulation and benefits the brain. Sanyinjiao is located on the foot Taiyin spleen meridian and is the crossing point of the three foot yin meridians. Needling Sanyinjiao promotes qi circulation in the three foot yin meridians whilst nourishing liver and kidney yin. Zhaohai is a crossing point located along the foot Shaoyin kidney meridian and the Yinqiao vessel. This acupoint nourishes yin and has a tranquilizing effect. In many ways, the body style points are mainstream, conventional acupoint selections for the treatment of insomnia within TCM.
At the Healthcare Medicine Institute (HealthCMi), we offer several online acupuncture continuing education courses that cover the topic of insomnia. The audio course entitled Acupuncture For Migraines, Insomnia, and Pain is based entirely on modern research. Listen to a sample of the audio materials by visiting the following:
In addition, HealthCMi offers written courses that cover the treatment of insomnia. Prof. Richard Liao, L.Ac. covers acupuncture and herbal medicine treatments in a variety of course presentations. The online course entitled Pain, Headaches, Insomnia, Fear presents several herbal formulas for the treatment of insomnia. To learn more, visit the following:
Effective treatments for the alleviation of insomnia are of great importance. Taylor et al. note that insomnia is a significant health risk factor for illnesses including anxiety, mental health disorders, drug abuse, and alcohol dependence. Dr. Ohayon of the Stanford University School of Medicine (California) notes that insomnia ranges between 6 – 15% of the population, dependent upon diagnostic definitions. The prevalence is 6% of the population, according to the DSM-IV classification.
In related research, investigators determined that acupuncture alleviates insomnia and increases estrogen levels for menopausal and perimenopausal women. Taipei Medical University (Taiwan) researchers conclude that acupuncture at acupuncture point Sanyinjiao significantly increases estrogen levels and reduces menopausal related symptoms, including insomnia. The results were published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, a publication by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
In other research, Wang et al. conclude that acupuncture is more effective for the treatment of insomnia than estazolam. Using Pittsburgh sleep quality index scores, acupuncture produced greater patient outcomes than estazolam for the improvement of “sleep quality, efficiency disturbance and daytime dysfunction.” The researchers applied acupuncture points in three steps and note that the order of needle insertion is very important. First, the following acupoints were applied:
- Tianshu (ST25)
- Zhongwan (CV12)
- Yinlingquan (SP9)
Next, acupoints commonly used for the treatment of insomnia were added:
- Baihui (GV20)
- Shenting (GV24)
Finally, one more set of acupoints was added:
- Shenmen (HT7)
- Taichong (LV3)
- Taixi (KD3)
Clinical and laboratory findings indicate that acupuncture is an effective treatment modality for the treatment of insomnia. The data indicates that integration of acupuncture into mainstream medical settings may alleviate the burden of insomnia on individuals and society. Take a look at other Healthcare Medicine Institute news articles to learn more.
Ma GH, Wei T & Chen TT. (2013). Efficacy of Treating Diseases by Managing Lower Plantar Acupuncture based Therapy in 42 Cases of Insomnia. JACM. 29(8).
Taylor DJ, Lichstein KL, Durrence HH. (2003). Insomnia as a health risk factor. Behav Sleep Med. 1(4): 227-247.
Hsiao-Yean Chiu, Yu-Jung Hsieh, and Pei-Shan Tsai, “Acupuncture to Reduce Sleep Disturbances in Perimenopausal and Postmenopausal Women,” Obstetrics & Gynecology 127, no. 3 (March 2016), pg 513.
Wang YJ, Zhang LH, Han YX, Li PP. Efficacy observation on Governor Vessel-unblocking and mind-calming acupuncture for insomnia. Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science. 2016 Jul 1;14(4):274-8.