Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture News and Research


Acupuncture is effective for pain relief. Researchers from the University of South Florida (Tampa) and the Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Fuzhou) document that acupuncture alleviates pain, in part, by regulation of microglial cells. These are non-neural cells that comprise part of the central nervous system structure. Scientists already knew that microglial cells act as macrophages at sites of damaged central nervous system tissue. The research team (Lin et al.) from the University of South Florida (Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences) along with researchers from the Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (College of Acupuncture) made the key findings.


Glial Cells and Neurons


The researchers cite evidence demonstrating that acupuncture inhibits “microglial and astrocytic proliferation coupled with improved functional recovery after SCI [spinal cord injury].” They add, “acupuncture exerts a remarkable analgesic effect on SCI by also inhibiting production of microglial cells through attenuation of p38MAPK and ERK activation.” The researchers note that their investigation summarizes “clinical evidence demonstrating that acupuncture is capable of producing analgesia in neuropathic pain by suppressing microglial activation.” Funding for the groundbreaking research was provided by the US Department of Defense, University of South Florida Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, and the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Foundation. 

Acupuncture reduces systemic inflammation due to infections and prevents sepsis. Researchers at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (Department of Surgery) find electroacupuncture effective for the treatment of infections, including polymicrobial peritonitis. In additional research, Qi et al. find Chinese herbal medicine effective for the treatment of osteomyelitis. We will look at both the acupuncture and herbal medicine findings.


Stainless Needles and Herbs 


The Rutgers New Jersey Medical School researchers completed a sham-controlled laboratory investigation. Electroacupuncture successfully regulated cytokine levels and achieved potent antiinflammatory effects that prevented sepsis and death of laboratory animals. In addition, electroacupuncture was shown to significantly boost dopamine levels. 

Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Shanghai Tongji University researchers tabulated results based on blood tests and ultrasonography related changes. The randomized-controlled investigation demonstrates that acupuncture produces significant improvements in patient outcomes. Acupuncture had a 90.4% total treatment efficacy rate for patients with chronic pelvic inflammatory disease. Objective measurements demonstrate improvements across several findings including those of leukocytes, granulocytes, and neutrophils. In addition, reduction or elimination of stagnant pelvic fluids and inflammatory pelvic masses were significant as a result of acupuncture therapy.


ST25 and CV6


Researchers from Shanghai Tongji University (China) conducted a randomized-controlled study to investigate the treatment efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pelvic inflammatory disease. A total of 103 patients were randomly distributed into an herbal medicine control group and an acupuncture treatment group, with 52 cases and 51 cases respectively. The results were published in a research paper entitled Clinical Observations on Acupuncture as Main Treatment for Chronic Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Researchers find acupuncture effective for the relief of postoperative pain. In addition, the research team concludes that acupuncture reduces pain medication dosage requirements needed to achieve pain relief and reduces adverse effects caused by analgesic medications. In a meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled studies, a total of 682 patient outcomes were analyzed. The studies selected for quantitative and qualitative analyses were narrowed down from an initial field of 219 studies. From that group, an initial 40 studies were chosen for a full reviewed based on the quality of the research. A total of 13 studies were then sorted from this group because they met the stringent rigors of randomized controlled trials set by the research team. This process ensured the quality of the research team’s conclusions.


TB14 Jianliao


The research team concludes that acupuncture “significantly reduced postoperative pain and the use of opioids” after surgery. Important findings were supported by subgroups examined in the meta-analysis. The researchers note that adverse effects associated with opioid use (e.g. nausea, sedation, dizziness, urinary disorders, itching) were significantly reduced for patients receiving acupuncture therapy. The researchers add that their statistical analyses ensures that the conclusions are accurate. They note, “Sensitivity analysis using the leave-one-out approach indicated the findings are robust and not dependent on any one study. In addition, no publication bias was detected.” The results were published in their research entitled The Efficacy of Acupuncture in Post-Operative Pain Management: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Researchers find acupuncture effective for the relief of cervical spinal syndrome. This condition involves irritation of the spinal nerves located in the neck. Spinal nerves transmit sensory, motor, and autonomic nervous system signals between the spinal cord and the body. Inflammation and impingement present in cervical spinal syndrome results in head, neck, chest, shoulder, or arm pain and dysfunction. The results of the research demonstrates that acupuncture plus moxibustion yields a high total recovery rate. In addition, nearly every patient receiving acupuncture plus moxibustion demonstrated significant improvements.


LI15 TB14 Shoulder Points 


Researchers from the Hubei Hongan Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital examined 200 cervical syndrome patients in a controlled investigation. The research team discovered that targeted acupuncture treatments produce an extremely high total effective rate and a high complete recovery rate. Targeting involved the application of a primary acupuncture point prescription for all patients plus an additional set of secondary acupuncture points based upon diagnostic variations in clinical presentations. Using this semi-protocolized targeted approach to patient care, the research team achieved a 97% total effective rate across all tiers of improvement. The breakdown into levels of efficaciousness produced surprising results. The total recovery rate was 64%, the significant improvement rate was 17%, the minimal improvement rate was 16%, and 3% had no improvement. 

Acupuncture combined with herbal medicine outperforms drugs for alleviating cognitive dysfunction after a cerebral infarction. Researchers (Wang et al.) compared the therapeutic effects of acupuncture plus herbs with that of a pharmaceutical medication. Two groups were compared. The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) group received acupuncture to benefit the occipital blood vessels and nerves. In addition, the herbal formula Bu Yang Huang Wu Tang was prescribed. The drug group received piracetam, a nootropic derivative of GABA, in tablet form. Nootropic medications are prescribed to benefit memory and cognitive function. The acupuncture plus herbs group achieved a 90% total treatment effective rate. The drug group achieved a 70% total effective rate.


Nape and Upper Back


Acupuncture was applied to Fengchi (GB20) and extra point Gongxue. In this study, Gongxue is located 1.5 cun below Fengchi. However, note that Lifang et al. use an alternate location for Gongxue (1 cun below GB20) in their research entitled Additional effects of acupuncture on early comprehensive rehabilitation in patients with mild to moderate acute ischemic stroke: a multicenter randomized controlled trial. Notably, Lifang et al. conclude that “acupuncture is safe and has additional multi-effect in improving neurologic deficits….” 

Researchers find acupuncture an effective complementary therapy to epidural analgesia during labor and delivery. In a a clinical study from the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, researchers conclude that acupuncture enhances the effects of epidural analgesia and reduces complications during childbirth. The researchers (Lu, Mai) discovered that patients receiving acupuncture had less emergency caesarean sections, required less epidural analgesics to achieve appropriate pain management levels, and required less assisted deliveries. The results indicate that patient outcomes significantly improve when acupuncture is added to the epidural analgesia protocol.


Hand Acupoints 


During labor, mothers experience labor pain, which stresses the body and may lead to pathological responses affecting the delivery process. Among the painkilling methods available at present, epidural analgesia is currently acknowledged as the one of the most effective and safest painkilling methods during labor, with few adverse effects. However, epidural analgesia may cause weaker uterine contractions, prolong the expulsion stage, and increase the need for assisted birth (Wu, Re, Wang). The research team cites modern studies demonstrating that acupuncture successfully induces labor, reduces delivery time, and strengthens cervical contractions. Based upon the data, the research team initiated the combined protocol investigation of epidural anesthesia with acupuncture. They hypothesized that acupuncture would mitigate anesthesia’s adverse effects and potentially enhance efficaciousness. The results tabulated, the research team discovered that pain relief was achieved more easily, total delivery time reduced significantly, and the rate of vaginal delivery increased. The combined protocol resulted in a significant reduction in the need for caesarean sections. 

Acupuncture reverses brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s Disease plaques and improves memory. Researchers identified the ability of electroacupuncture to reduce pathological plaques in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s Disease. Furthermore, important biochemical secretions are regulated by electroacupuncture that correlate to benefits in cognitive functioning. Laboratory tests confirm that electroacupuncture causes improvements in cognitive functioning, brain plaque reduction, and restores regulation of brain neurotrophin growth factors. We’ll take a look at the acupuncture study’s results and also review important aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease pathology.


Scalp Acupoints


Researchers at The Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine have made promising discoveries about the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and have identified that electroacupuncture (EA) at the acupoint Baihui (DU20) may reverse key neurogenic factors of the disease. The study, conducted on mice, showed that electroacupuncture decreases cognitive impairment and deposits of β-amyloid (Aβ) — the plaque that is one of the defining signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. The researchers also found that electroacupuncture increases the ratio among brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) to favor those that promote neural potentiation over those that cause apoptosis (programmed cell death). Since ancient times, DU20 has been used to improve cognitive functioning but the mechanisms of action have only recently been mapped by scientific investigations. This study demonstrates that DU20 benefits cognitive functioning and also elucidates the mechanisms of action of the acupoint. 

Shanghai Tongren Hospital researchers conclude that acupuncture combined with herbal medicine is effective for the alleviation of tinnitus. References to tinnitus exist throughout ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) literature, including approximately ten references in the Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine). Now, modern research verifies the efficacy of both acupuncture and herbal medicine for the treatment of tinnitus.


SI19 tinggong 


Hospital researchers achieved an 85.7% total treatment effective rate using acupuncture combined with herbal medicine. Participants were placed in treatment protocol groups according to TCM diagnostic patterns: kidney yin deficiency, hyperactivity of liver and gallbladder fire, excess heart fire, unrisen lucid yang qi. Each of these diagnostic patterns are syndromes based on a series of symptoms. For example, kidney yin deficiency patients have several of the following symptoms: lower back soreness, loss of hair, insomnia, mental restlessness, night sweating, malar flush, excessive heat of the palms, feet, and chest. 

Acupuncture regenerates neurons and promotes biological processes responsible for motor function recovery after spinal cord injuries. Often, motor function below spinal cord injuries deteriorates, which may lead to paralysis. Researchers discovered that acupuncture may prevent paralysis by stimulating repair. The researchers (Yang et al.) discovered that electroacupuncture produced important biological responses after a spinal cord injury necessary for the protection of motor neurons. Electroacupuncture increased the following:

  • the total number of healthy neurons
  • activity of acetylcholinesterase (AChE)
  • the total number Nissl bodies
  • glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) in mRNA


Back Shu Points


The research demonstrates that electroacupuncture promotes repair of cells responsible for motor function, which may stimulate nerve repair sufficient for the prevention of paralysis after a spinal cord injury. One way to assess the degree of nerve injury is to assess the number of Nissl bodies or the number of neurons containing Nissl bodies, which are the sites of protein synthesis (Gulino and Gulisano). Another way to assess the degree of injury is through the activity of AChE, the enzyme necessary to regenerate neurons through the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (Nakamura). 

Acupuncture outperforms medications for the treatment of diarrhea due to irritable bowel syndrome. Termed IBS-D, this type of irritable bowel syndrome presents with chronic diarrhea as one of the primary symptoms. In a protocolized study conducted at the Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine (Pei et al.), researchers determined that acupuncture has a higher treatment effective rate for the relief of IBS-D than pinaverium bromide.


Yangming and Ren Channel Points


The pharmaceutical medication pinaverium bromide is a spasmolytic agent used for the relief of functional gastrointestinal dysfunction. The antispasmodic action of pinaverium bromide is used to relieve irritable bowel syndrome related diarrhea and abdominal pain. The research team of Pei et al. discovered that acupuncture is significantly more effective than the medication. 

Acupuncture benefits patients with Parkinson’s disease. Researchers discovered that acupuncture helps improve cognitive abilities, emotional stability, and daily living activity scores for patients with Parkinson’s disease. By combining scalp acupuncture with standard pharmaceutical medications, patients had significant reductions in post-treatment complications due to adverse effects associated with medication therapy. The researchers confirm that acupuncture combined with conventional medication therapy significantly prevents degradation of cognitive abilities and improves mental and emotional health.


Back Shu points


The research team compared two groups in their investigation. Both groups received identical drug therapies commonly used for Parkinson’s disease patients. One group received the addition of scalp acupuncture with electrostimulation delivered with an electroacupuncture device. The group receiving only drug therapy had a 73.3% total treatment effective rate. The group receiving drug therapy plus acupuncture had an 87% total treatment effective rate. The research team of Gu et al. reported the results of the investigation in the Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion in the research paper entitled Clinical Observations on Combined Treatment of Parkinson's Disease Using Acupuncture and Medicine

A study conducted at the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi University of Chinese Medicine demonstrates that acupuncture normalizes brain functions in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans, the Guangxi University of Chinese Medicine researchers determined that scalp acupuncture at acupoint DU20 (Baihui) restores healthy brain patters to patients experiencing major depressive disorder. Using before and after fMRIs, the researchers determined that acupuncture balances brain states in patients with severe depression and restores healthy brain functional connectivity. In addition, acupuncture successfully downregulated excessive hyperactivity of brain states found in major depressive disorder patients. The researchers determined that acupuncture allows the brain to return to a normal restful state while simultaneously reactivating brain regions suffering from abnormally low functionality.


hippocampus mriHippocampus


The researchers compared the fMRI results of 29 first-episode major depressive disorder patients with fMRI results of 29 healthy subjects. The researchers identified areas of the brain with differing functional connectivity (FC) in major depressive disorder patients. After 20 minutes of electroacupuncture (EA) stimulation at acupoint DU20 (Baihui), the patients were given another fMRI scan to determine how electroacupuncture affects functional connectivity in the brain. [1] The outcomes demonstrate that electroacupuncture has the effect of increasing functional connectivity in areas of hypoconnectivity and decreasing functional connectivity in areas of hyperconnectivity, thereby modulating the default mode network (DMN) of the brain toward healthier brain activity. [2] Electroacupuncture restored homeostatic resting states to the brain by balancing DMN functional connectivity. 

Qi-guiding acupuncture relieves disc herniation pain and a special intensive silver acupuncture needle protocol relieves chronic lower back myofascial pain.

Researchers find acupuncture effective for the treatment of lower back pain disorders. In a protocolized study from the Shanghai Jiaotong University Sixth People’s Hospital, researchers determined that a special type of manual acupuncture therapy, known as qi-guiding acupuncture, produces significant positive patient outcomes for lumbar intervertebral disc herniation patients. In related research from Xinping Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, investigators find acupuncture combined with moxibustion effective for the alleviation of lower back pain due to lumbodorsal myofascial pain syndrome. A special application of silver acupuncture needles produced superior patient outcomes. Let’s start with a look at the Shanghai Jiaotang University research and then we’ll see how the silver needle protocol boosts treatment efficacy for the treatment of lower back pain.


Lower Back Needles


Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of lumbar intervertebral disc herniations. Wu et al. (Shanghai Jiaotong University Sixth People’s Hospital) investigated the treatment results of qi-guiding acupuncture with meridian differentiated acupoint selections and determined that it produces significant positive treatment outcomes for lumbar intervertebral disc herniation patients. Wu et al. also find electroacupuncture with meridian differentiated acupoint selections effective; however, qi-guiding acupuncture had a slightly higher rate of producing positive patient outcomes. Qi-guiding acupuncture had an 87.5% total treatment effective rate and electroacupuncture achieved an 86.6% total treatment effective rate. Qi-guiding acupuncture also had better outcomes for increases in nerve conduction velocity. The results are definitive given the large sample size of 549 patients with lumbar disc herniations evaluated in this study. 

A team of University of California (Irvine) researchers conclude that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of high blood pressure. In a controlled laboratory study, the team not only documented the efficacy of acupuncture but also demonstrated the mechanisms of effective action. The University of California team has proven that electroacupuncture (the stimulation of a filiform needle with electricity) at acupuncture point ST36 (Zusanli) promotes enkephalin production that dampens proinflammatory excitatory responses from the sympathetic nervous system that are responsible for hypertension. The researchers note that electroacupuncture regulates chemical changes to the area of the brain responsible for nervous system responses that control cardiovascular function.


 the human brain


The researchers document that electroacupuncture achieves this result by directly influencing preproenkephalin (PPE) gene expression. PPE is a precursor substance that encodes proenkephalin, which then stimulates the production of enkephalin (an endogenous opioid with powerful pain killing actions). The research documents that electroacupuncture reduces blood pressure through the regulation of this process. 

Researchers find acupuncture combined with moxibustion more effective for the treatment of painful menstruation than ibuprofen. Across three independent studies, researchers made several important findings. Acupuncture plus moxibustion produces superior treatment outcomes to oral intake of ibuprofen. Acupuncture plus moxibustion is superior to using only acupuncture as a standalone therapy. Acupuncture improves blood circulation and hemorheological characteristics for patients with dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). Let’s take a look at the results.


Qihai (CV6)


Hubei University of Medicine researchers (Jiao et al.) conducted a controlled clinical trial and confirm that the combination protocol of acupuncture plus moxibustion produces superior outcomes to using ibuprofen capsules to control menstruation cramping and pain. Jiao et al. conclude that acupuncture plus moxibustion has a 96.8% total treatment effective rate for the treatment of dysmenorrhea. Ibuprofen sustained time release capsules achieved a 58.1% total treatment effective rate. Acupuncture plus moxibustion outperformed ibuprofen by 38.7%. This is consistent with the independent research of Zhao et al. finding acupuncture effective for improving blood hemorheological characteristics, regulating blood viscosity, and enhancing the microcirculation of blood in the uterus for patients with dysmenorrhea. 

University of Minnesota researchers provide hope for patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) with a milestone in acupuncture pain control research. Electroacupuncture induced pain relief for SCD was confirmed in a controlled laboratory experiment. In addition, biochemical changes (amyloid P, IL-1beta, substance P, tryptase, mast cell activation, p38MARK) reveal important electroacupuncture analgesic pathways. Lead researcher Dr. Wang from Dr. Gupta's lab is encouraged by the success of the study and notes, “We will be continuously working on the scientific mechanisms of acupuncture treatment in reducing the dose usage of opioids in multiple pain conditions.”


Dr. Ying WangDr. Ying Wang, M.D., Ph.D., L.Ac.


A milestone in acupuncture laboratory research, the first-ever method to perform electroacupuncture on conscious, freely moving, unrestrained mice has been developed. Using this groundbreaking technique, Dr. Ying Wang, M.D., Ph.D., L.Ac. and her co-workers from the University of Minnesota (Department of Medicine) demonstrate a significant analgesic effect caused by the application of electroacupuncture in transgenic mouse models of sickle cell disease (SCD) with electroacupuncture treatment. [1] 

A randomized clinical study from the New England School of Acupuncture (NESA) has proven the efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of pain for patients with Gulf War Illness (GWI). Of the 85 subjects who completed the study, there was an average improvement of 9.4 points in the physical function of the test group and a pain reduction of 3.6 points. (Results were measured using the 36-Item Short Form Survey for physical function (SF-36P) and the McGill Pain Scale, and they were modeled using a generalized estimating equation (GEE) to determine correlation.) [1] Additionally, 96% of participating veterans reported the high usability of acupuncture and confidence in recommending it to a friend or family member. [2] Based on these results we can conclude that individualized treatment has provided significant relief in pain and physical disability for veterans with GWI.




The project was conducted by researchers from the University of Florida (Gainesville), Boston Veterans Healthcare System (Massachusetts), University of Texas (Austin), and the New England School of Acupuncture (Massachusetts). Funding for the research was provided by the US Department of Defense through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP). The research award was supported by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs through the Gulf War Illness Research Program. 

A powerful type of acupuncture is proven effective for the treatment of urinary incontinence. In a Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine clinical trial, standard acupuncture stimulation demonstrated a 54% total effective rate, however; a specialized electroacupuncture treatment protocol yielded an 86% total effective rate. We’ll take a look how these remarkable results were achieved.


Back Shu Points with Moxa


Urinary incontinence (enuresis) is defined as the involuntary leakage of urine. Due to loss of bladder control, urine may leak during coughing, sneezing, laughing, heavy lifting, or other activities. The condition may also present in the form of urgent urination wherein one may not have enough time to get to the restroom. Urinary incontinence may take on a more insidious nature wherein there may be frequent, often imperceptible, dribbling of urine. In all presentations of the disorder, there is a loss of bladder control. 

Acupuncture and herbs outperform drug therapy for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Researchers compared two groups, one received acupuncture and herbal medicine and the other received drug therapy. The group receiving acupuncture and herbs had superior positive patient outcome rates. Acupuncture and herbs produced clinical outcomes yielding greater improvements in stool consistency and significantly greater reductions of abdominal pain, mucus in the stool, bloating, and bowel urgency.


Back Shu Points


Chongqing Nanchuan Hospital researchers started with a sample size of 126 human patients with IBS. The patients were randomly divided into the acupuncture plus herbs group and the drug group, with a total of 63 patients in each group. For both groups, there were improvements in abdominal pain and discomfort scores. However, the acupuncture plus herbs group demonstrated significantly greater clinical improvements. In addition, the group receiving acupuncture plus herbs had greater reductions of anxiety levels and behavioral disorders. The data indicates that the acupuncture plus herbs group had significant improvements in general psychological well-being and overall perceived energy levels. 

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