Latest Acupuncture News
- Photoacoustic Acupuncture Imaging Advancement
- Acupuncture Soothes Allergies & Sinus
- Acupuncture Alleviates Parkinson’s Disease
- CT Scans Capture Acupuncture Point Discovery
- Acupuncture Live Webinars Feature Pain & Addiction
- Anti-inflammatory Acupuncture Protects From Adhesions
- Acupuncture Point Anatomy Found
Acupuncture Continuing Education News
Photoacoustic tomography of the brain during acupuncture reveals cerebral responses to acupuncture needle stimulation. Researchers have developed new photoacoustic imaging techniques for use during acupuncture that employ short laser pulses to generate ultrasonic waves in living tissues. The techniques generate high ultrasonic resolution images with sharp contrast. The images show structural and functional images of cerebral responses to acupuncture.
Researchers using photoacoustic imaging measured brain blood circulation changes when applying acupuncture at acupoint KD1 (Yongquan). KD1 is located on the sole of the foot between the second and third metatarsal bones in a depression formed with then foot is plantar flexed. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles, KD1 benefits the sensory organs, calms the spirit and helps the qi to descend. It is indicated for use in reviving consciousness, controlling seizures including epilepsy, and for the treatment of shock, vertex headaches, blurry vision, foot disorders, coughing with blood and insomnia.
The researchers developed photoacoustic imaging techniques to augment MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography) imaging of responses to acupuncture. The researchers note that MRI imaging excels in recording oxygen level changes in the blood but is expensive and has low spatial and temporal resolution. They note that PET scans excel in recording glucose metabolism and blood flow but patients must be injected with tracer isotopes prior to imaging. The researchers add that near infrared spectroscopy has helped scientists to understand the mechanisms of acupuncture on the body.
Acupuncture relieves sinus problems due to allergies. Research published in the American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy incorporates a meta-analysis of high quality allergy related studies comparing groups receiving acupuncture versus control groups. The researchers documented that acupuncture “produced significantly greater diminution of nasal symptoms” in the acupuncture group. They add, “Our meta-analysis showed that (the) acupuncture group has superior effect(s) in reduction of both rhinitis symptoms and the requirement for antiallergic medication compared with (the) control group.”
The research team notes that allergic rhinitis is a nasal hypersensitivity reaction to allergens. Common triggers include irritants such as dust mites, animal dander, and pollens. Reactions include nasal congestion, rhinorrhea (“runny nose”), sneezing, and pruritus (severe itching). Allergic rhinitis affects approximately 1.4 billion people with increasing numbers. Medications used to combat allergic rhinitis include antihistamines, corticosteroids, mast cell stabilizers, anticholinergics, and antileukotrienes.
Biomedicine And Acupuncture
The researchers note potential biological mechanisms making acupuncture effective for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. One mechanism is the ability of acupuncture to modulate cytokines, which are immune system cell secretions, and another is the ability of acupuncture to induce anti-inflammatory actions. The researchers identified changes in IgE as a result of acupuncture treatment for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. IgE is a class of immunoglobulins including antibodies that react to pollen, spores, animal dander and othe substances. IgE levels often rise significantly during allergic reactions. The researchers note, “Our meta-analysis of serum IgE levels in three included trials showed a significant decrease of IgE for the acupuncture group compared with the control group. This result showed strong and consistent evidence that acupuncture treatment leads to favorable responses in immunologic outcomes, which have been shown to be helpful in trials of proven therapeutic modalities, such as allergen-specific immunotherapy.”
Quality Of Research
This groundbreaking research distinguishes itself from prior investigations by including the “latest multicenter, randomized, pararallel-controlled trials.” Stringent inclusion criteria included:
- Randomized controlled trials
- Diagnosis of allergic rhinitis
- Acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture or other control
A total of 174 abstracts were considered for inclusion but this was narrowed down to a limited number of trials meeting the inclusion criteria. All included trials reported on nasal symptoms, medication relief, quality of life, total IgE, or safety. A total of 2,365 participants made it to the final adoption in the research. This included 1,126 patients in the acupuncture treatment group and 1,239 in the control group.
The researchers conclude that acupuncture for the treatment of allergic rhinitis is indicated as a safe and effective modality of care in this meta-analysis. As a result, the researchers encourage continued research on this topic including future randomized-controlled trials to confirm the meta-analysis.
Acupuncture relieves Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Researchers document the ability of acupuncture to reduce pain, anxiety, depression, hot flashes and abnormal sweating in a clinical case history. The patient responded with significant positive patient outcomes after a 2 week regime of acupuncture treatments given at a rate of five days per week.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder affecting movement. Changes include the onset of tremors, slowness of movements, shuffling, difficulty swallowing, fainting, reduced arm sway, rigidity and dysfunction of speech and gait. There is no known biomedical cure but medications including levodopa, COMT inhibitors, MAO-B inhibitors, dopamine agonists and other medications are used to control symptoms. Surgical interventions include the implantation of deep brain stimulators.
Acupuncture successfully reduces pain, autonomic nervous system dysfunction, and mental illness in Parkinson’s disease patients. Researchers from the Aizu Medical Center (Fukushima Medical University) delivered the patient care and collected the data. Additional support and came from an investigator at the Department of Neurology, Hematology, Metabolism, Endocrinology and Diabetology (Yamagata University).
The case history documents acupuncture’s ability to address specific concerns of an 81 year old female patient suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Complications included a history of hypertension and lumbar fracture. The patient had been prescribed medications including anti-inflammatory and psychiatric drugs. Her symptoms persisted and acupuncture was initiated.
Manual acupuncture was applied at acupuncture points: LR3, LI4, KI5, KI7, SP6, GB34, BL18, BL15, GB20. Needles were retained for ten minutes per session. Electroacupuncture at 1 Hz for 7 minutes was applied to: KI10, LR9, BL23, BL25. The researchers note that the electroacupuncture was applied to relax the muscle tension. Seirin brand acupuncture needles of 40 - 50 mm length and 0.14 - 0.18 diameter were used. The researchers note that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory guided the needle selection process. UB15, LR3, and SP6 were chosen for their ability to treat both depression and anxiety. LR3, KI7, BL18, and GB34 were chosen for their ability to treat hot flashes and paroxysmal sweating.
The researchers note that the patient's lower leg pain decreased. Hot flashes and paroxysmal sweating incidences reduced. The patient showed very significant reductions in depression and anxiety scores. In addition, her “steps became larger” and there was a significant reduction in bradykinesia, a complication often correlated with Parkinson’s disease characterized by slowness and impairment of movements and reflexes.
In related research, University of Arizona doctors find acupuncture effective for the treatment of balance and gait disorders in Parkinson’s disease patients. The research team from the surgery and neurology departments measured significant clinical improvements in overall balance, gait speed and stride length. The results were published in Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Patients were randomly assigned to an acupuncture group or a control group. The acupuncture group received electroacupuncture. The control group received sham acupuncture to rule out variables including the placebo effect. Patients received one treatment per week for three weeks and each treatment duration lasted a total of 30 minutes.
Objective measurements were taken from various positions and during many types of activities. Balance measurements included assessment of the relationship between the mediolateral center of mass sway with the anteroposterior sway. These measurements were taken with the eyes open, closed and during multitasking. Gait measurements were taken during fast walking, postural transitions and related activities.
The researchers tabulated the results and measured an overall improvement in balance by 31% in the acupuncture group. Gait speed improved by 10% and stride length increased by 5% for patients receiving true acupuncture. Control group patients showed no improvements.
Balance, gait and stride length significantly improved due to the application of electroacupuncture. Use of a sham acupuncture control group eliminated the possibility of the placebo effect in the final results. As a result, the University of Arizona doctors conclude, “EA (electroacupuncture) is an effective therapy in improving certain aspects of balance and gait disorders in PD (Parkinson’s disease).”
CT scan imaging reveals unique anatomical structures of acupuncture points. Published in Biomedical Engineering and Informatics, researchers used in-line phase contrast CT imaging with synchrotron radiation to capture images of acupuncture points. They compared non-acupuncture point locations with real Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupuncture points. The CT scans reveal unique distinctions between the non-acupuncture points and acupuncture point structures.
State-of-the-art synchrotron radiation CT techniques allowed for improved soft tissue imaging and a larger field of view. The CT technological breakthrough led to the discovery of unique acupuncture point characteristics. A detailed look at acupuncture point ST37 (Shangjuxu) reveals a concentrated number of involuted microvascular structures. Non-acupuncture points lacked the dense concentration of microvascular vessels and involuted structures found in acupoints.
The researchers note that the in-line imaging techniques employed in the study improved the light path, enhanced the field of view and eliminated artifacts. The technological advancement allowed for a new look at the microstructures at ST37 and other points. The researchers note that acupuncture points have small microvascular structures and their bifurcations “can be clearly seen around the thick blood vessels.” In addition, acupuncture points demonstrate a dense number of fine microvascular structures. On the other hand, non-acupuncture points show thick blood vessels absent the unique, fine structures found in true acupuncture points. The researchers conclude, “Our results demonstrated again the existence of acupoints, and also show that the acupoints are special points in mammals.”
In a prior study published in the Journal of Electron Spectroscopy and Related Phenomena, the research team used in-line phase contrast CT imaging with synchrotron radiation on both non-acupuncture points and acupuncture points and made similar discoveries. The CT scans revealed clear distinctions between the non-acupuncture point and acupuncture point anatomical structures.
In an identical finding, acupuncture points had a higher density of micro-vessels and contained a large amount of involuted microvascular structures. The non-acupuncture points did not exhibit these properties. Similarly, the researchers noted that the advanced CT imaging techniques allowed for improved three-dimensional (3D) imaging of a large field of view without artifacts and enhanced soft tissue visualization.
Acupuncture points ST36 (Zusanli) and ST37 (Shangjuxu) demonstrated very distinct structural differences from surrounding areas. At the acupuncture points, microvascular densities with bifurcations “can be clearly seen around thick blood vessels” but non-acupuncture point areas showed few thick blood vessels and none showed fine, high density structures. The acupuncture points contained fine structures with more large blood vessels that are several dozen micrometers in size plus beds of high density vascularization of vessels 15 - 50 micrometers in size. This structure was not found in non-acupuncture point areas.
The latest in acupuncture research for pain management, addiction recovery, and insomnia is featured in upcoming live webinars for acupuncture CEUs at HealthCMi. Visit the HealthCMi live webinar web page because it features complete information about upcoming events.
The January 20th webinar features acupuncture for the treatment of pain and addiction. A recent study demonstrating the power of a special acupuncture point for morphine addiction recovery will be presented. Licensed acupuncturists receive CEU and PDA credit for attending the live webinar.
The February 10th webinar continues the presentation of the latest research for pain management with acupuncture. A special focus is given to recent research on acupuncture for the treatment of lower back pain and disc degeneration. The March 10th webinar presents modern research for the treatment of pain plus important research demonstrating the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of insomnia. More webinars will be posted; expect HealthCMi to present at least one live webinar per month.
The live webinars are designed for licensed acupuncturists to obtain continuing education credit, however, the general public is welcome. All live webinars feature a two-way interactive question and answer section. This makes the webinar widely accessible to everyone. All that is needed is a good internet connection. The webinar can run on an iPhone, Android, iPad, Mac and Windows PC.
Acupuncture exerts post-operative anti-inflammatory responses thereby preventing abdominal adhesions. Published in the Journal of Surgical Research, investigators have discovered a major biological mechanism that may be responsible for these beneficial effects. The research team concludes, “EA (electroacupuncture) ST36 might reduce the postoperative local inflammatory response, attenuate the angiogenesis and alleviate the adhesion formation partly via activating the cholinergic anti-inflammatory mechanism.”
The team’s findings build on earlier research proving that electroacupuncture prevents post-operative abdominal adhesions. In looking for clues as to how acupuncture exerts its anti-inflammatory effects, they discovered that electroacupuncture at acupoint ST36 “reduced TNF-α and VEGF levels in adhesive tissue homogenates 7 days after surgery….” Even more interesting, only true acupuncture points used in the study exhibited these effects. Electroacupuncture at “non-channel acupoints...had no suppressive effects on TNF-α and VEGF levels. TNF (Tumor Necrosis Factor) is a cytokine that is involved in various biological functions including septic shock and wasting syndrome. VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) is a signal protein produced by cells that engage vasculogenesis and angiogenesis.
Histopathological and macroscopic evaluations confirm that electroacupuncture at ST36 reduces post-operative adhesion formation. In addition, the researchers note that electroacupuncture at ST36 “significantly decreased angiogenesis evidenced by reduced CD31 positive microvessel density (MVD) in adhesive tissue.” CD31 (Cluster of Differentiation) is a protein that regulates neutrophil removal and expresses in vascular tumors, sarcomas and carcinomas.
Related research confirms the anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture. Another recent study reveals that acupuncture at acupoints GV20 and GB7 regulates the cascade of endogenous inflammatory chemicals released after a stroke. These acupuncture points prevent inflammation by inhibiting IL-1beta in the brain tissue region of a hematoma. IL-1beta is a pro-inflammatory cytokine, a cell-signaling protein molecule used in intercellular communication.
Scalp acupuncture causes a rapid decrease of IL-6 (Interleukin-6), another cytokine involved in the inflammatory response. Left unchecked, IL-6’s pro-inflammatory effects are pathological. IL-6 mediates fevers, crosses the blood-brain barrier and is found in high levels in patients with metastatic cancer.
The researchers note that acupuncture at GV20 and Taiyang has an “inhibitory effect on the immune-inflammatory reaction mediated by TNF-(alpha) expression….” Additionally, acupuncture at GV20 and GB7 “promoted heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) mRNA expression in brain tissue….” HSP70 helps cells fold proteins and have the ability to protect cells from stress. Other scalp acupuncture research shows “improved mitochondrial energy metabolism in (the) brain….”
Researchers have discovered an anatomical structure located at acupuncture points. Wang, et. al., have identified a “vessel-like structure” made of “calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP)-positive neurofibers in local tissues” at acupuncture points. The researchers discovered that “CGRP-positive nerve fibers were found to distribute in the dermis and subcutaneous layers of local tissues of acupoint ST 44, ST 36 and ST 32, mainly concentrating around the vessel-like structure.” They add, “CGRP-positive neurofibers are an important element in the local tissues of acupoint ST 44, ST 36 and ST 32 regions….”
Miyauchi, et. al., note, “The calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) plays important roles as a neurotransmitter/neuromodulator in the central nervous system, and as a potent vasodilator when secreted from peripheral, perivascular nerves through its specific receptors.” Wang, et. al,. used a laser confocal microscope to make the discovery of CGRP positive nerve fibers at acupuncture points. This research solves one piece of the biological mystery behind the structure and mechanism of acupuncture’s effective actions on human health.
CGRP is a type of neurotransmitter. Nerve fibers that are positive for the presence of CGRP play many roles in human physiology. For example, Hara-Irie, et. al., note that “CGRP-positive nerve fibers could be a crucial element in bone metabolism during bone growth and development.” Kunst, et. al., from the Yale School of Medicine (New Haven, Connecticut) note that CGRP is “a wake-promoting neuropeptide that regulates sleep maintenance at night.” Evans, et. al., from the University of Miami School of Medicine (Miami, Florida) note that CGRP is “a potent vasodilator neuropeptide.” The density of nerve fibers containing CGRP located at acupuncture points may correlate to the ability of acupuncture to stimulate signal conduction and induce health benefits.
Hongbao Ma of the Department of Medicine, Michigan State University (East Lansing) notes, “Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is a 37 amino acid vasoactive neuropeptide that is widely distributed in central and peripheral nervous systems in mammals. CGRP was discovered in 1982 by molecular cloning of calcitonin (CT) gene.” Ma adds, “CGRP is secreted by primary afferents and causes primary hyperalgesia, and its expression increases in (the) dorsal horn under sensitization conditions. CGRP plays (an) important role in blood pressure system.” Given the discovery of CGRP in 1982, it is not unusual that the vessel-like physical structures of CGRP associated with acupuncture points have only recently been discovered.
Russell, et. al. note, “CGRP is a highly potent vasodilator and, partly as a consequence, possesses protective mechanisms that are important for physiological and pathological conditions involving the cardiovascular system and wound healing. CGRP is primarily released from sensory nerves and thus is implicated in pain pathways. The proven ability of CGRP antagonists to alleviate migraine has been of most interest in terms of drug development, and knowledge to date concerning this potential therapeutic area is discussed.”
Ling Zhao et. al., conclude that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of migraines and reduces pain intensity levels. Zhou et. al., find acupuncture effective in the prevention of migraines and links acupuncture’s therapeutic benefits to its ability to stimulate MLCK expression. The expression of myosin light-chain kinase (MLCK) is involved in the regulation of smooth muscle contraction. The researchers document a correlation between acute migraine attacks and decreases of MLCK via the CGRP signal system. The researchers discovered that applying acupuncture to acupoint GB20 (Fengchi) successfully upregulates MLCK expression and has “preventative and curative” effects for migraine patients.
In another investigation, Morry Silberstein, et. al., conclude that acupuncture points are related to both unmyelinated and myelinated afferent nerve fibers in a unique neuroanatomical structure not found in other areas of the body. The researchers used light microscopy on silver stained sections of acupuncture point P6 (silver stained human cadaver sample) and used confocal light microscopy on a live subject for acupuncture points GB20 and SP6. Control sites were compared with the acupuncture points.
At acupuncture points, it was discovered that a nerve bundle extended to the dermal-epidermal junctions. Each bundle branched into 2 sections perpendicular to each other. This anatomical phenomenon was not observed at the control sites. The researchers concluded that this acupoint neuroanatomical finding suggests that, “acupuncture may incise afferent unmyelinated axonal branch points, disrupting both neural transmission to the spinal cord and crosstalk along meridians, while simultaneously stimulating larger, myelinated afferents, thus explaining both the immediate and long-lasting effects of acupuncture.”
In another body of research by Chenglin, et. al., CT scans reveal unique anatomical structures of acupuncture points. A CT (computerized tomography) scan is a series of X-rays used to create cross-sectional images. In a study published in the Journal of Electron Spectroscopy and Related Phenomena, researchers used in-line phase contrast CT imaging with synchrotron radiation on both non-acupuncture points and acupuncture points. The CT scans revealed clear distinctions between the non-acupuncture point and acupuncture point anatomical structures. Acupuncture points have a higher density of micro-vessels and contain a large amount of involuted microvascular structures. The non-acupuncture points did not exhibit these properties.
The researchers note that the state-of-the-art CT imaging techniques used in this study allow for improved three-dimensional (3D) imaging of a large field of view without artifacts. This greatly improves imaging of soft tissue and allowed the researchers to view this important finding.
The acupuncture points ST36 (Zusanli) and ST37 (Shangjuxu) were shown to have distinct structural differences from surrounding areas. At the acupuncture points, microvascular densities with bifurcations “can be clearly seen around thick blood vessels” but non-acupuncture point areas showed few thick blood vessels and none showed fine, high density structures. The acupuncture points contained fine structures with more large blood vessels that are several dozen micrometers in size plus beds of high density vascularization of vessels 15-50 micrometers in size. This structure was not found in non-acupuncture point areas.
Tenderness at acupuncture point SP6 (Sanyinjiao) is linked to incidences of menstrual cramping with pain. Tenderness at this lower leg acupuncture point has been associated with dysmenorrhea in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for over a thousand years. Now, researchers have completed a randomized study to test the scientific basis for this phenomenon. The researchers discovered a significant “tenderness at Sanyinjiao (SP6) exists in women undergoing primary dysmenorrhea.”
The term dysmenorrhea refers to painful cramps occurring before or during the menstrual period. The symptoms of dysmenorrhea include abdominal pain and pressure, hip and lower back pain, and inner thigh pain. Primary dysmenorrhea is a type of recurring menstrual cramps not caused by other diseases.
The use of SP6 in acupuncture is highly defined and established. Indications for the use of acupoint SP6 in TCM are abdominal pain and distention, dysmenorrhea, irregular menstruation, uterine bleeding, leukorrhea, uterine prolapse, infertility, delayed labor, nocturnal emissions, enuresis, dysuria, lower limb disorders, vertigo from deficiency and insomnia. TCM theory states that SP6 benefits the spleen and kidneys, transforms dampness, and spreads the liver qi. SP6, roughly translated as three yin junction, is also the meeting point of the three lower yin meridians.
Research supports using SP6 for the treatment of dysmenorrhea. Shi, et. al., measured significant pain relief induced by needling acupuncture point SP6 for patients with primary dysmenorrhea. Blood samples were taken of participants during the study. It was shown that although acupuncture decreased menstrual pain, the beneficial effects were not related to changes in plasma levels of prostaglandins. The researchers conclude that the analgesic effects of SP6 are not mediated by prostaglandin variations in the bloodstream.
Another study of 66 patients finds acupuncture, combined with cupping and moxibustion, effective for the relief of menstrual pain. The patients had significant relief of menstrual pain within 2 - 6 acupuncture treatments. This study employed the use of SP6 and other acupuncture points: CV4 (Guanyuan), SP10 (Xuehai), K3 (Taixi), SP8 (Diji).
Licensed acupuncturists often combine acupuncture with herbal medicine for the treatment of gynecological conditions. Research backs up this time honored approach to patient care. A high quality study finds acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine effective for the relief of endometriosis related pain. The total effective rate for auricular acupuncture was over 90%. The total effective rate for Chinese herbal medicine was 60%. A closer look reveals that the effective rate for mild to moderate dysmenorrhea due to endometriosis for both auricular acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is similar. However, auricular acupuncture showed greater efficacy for the relief of severe dysmenorrhea due to endometriosis. The randomized, blinded controlled trial was of high quality and a laparoscopy was required to confirm the diagnosis of endometriosis.
Zhou, et. al., find acupuncture combined with moxibustion and herbs is more effective for reducing menstrual pain and cramping than ibuprofen. The results were published based on research of a randomized investigation of patients with primary dysmenorrhea. Data points were taken at three, six and nine months after the beginning of treatment. The long-term positive clinical outcomes for patients having received acupuncture, moxibustion and herbal medicine was significantly superior to patients having taken ibuprofen.
Research conducted at the Affiliated Hospital of Hubei College of Medicine and Pharmacy involved a trial of 90 patients with primary dysmenorrhea. The patients were randomly divided into two study groups. Group 1 received acupuncture, herbal hot compresses and moxibustion. Group 2 received oral administration of ibuprofen at 300 mg per dose, three times daily. The treatment lasted for three menstrual cycles.
During the course of treatment, dietary restrictions were applied to both group 1 and group 2. Patients were advised to avoid eating raw, cold, pungent or very spicy foods. Patients were advised to increase their consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits. In addition, patients were advised to avoid prolonged exposure to cold temperatures on the lower abdomen. The total effective rate observed in the acupuncture group was much higher than that of the ibuprofen group.
The hot compresses were applied to the umbilical region and local regions of pain on the lower abdomen. The herbal medicines in the compresses were Dan Shen 10g, Yan Hu Suo 10g and Yi Mu Cao 30g. The herbs were decocted for one hour and strained. A 10 cm x 15 cm flannel cloth was soaked in the decoction, removed and squeezed to remove excess fluid. The cloth was applied to the patient. One hot compress treatment lasted for fifteen minutes.
Customization of acupuncture points was applied according to TCM differential diagnostics. Primary acupuncture points used in the study were:
In cases of excess, the following were added:
For cases of deficiency, the following acupuncture points were added:
Reinforcing and reducing acupuncture needle manipulation techniques were applied until a deqi sensation was achieved. Moxa was applied to needles. The needles were withdrawn after the use of 3 - 5 cones of moxa. The approximate treatment time was 30 minutes. Acupuncture, moxibustion and hot compresses were applied once daily for a period of six days. The treatment started one week before the menstrual period began and ended by the first day of the menstrual cycle. The treatment resumed before the next menstrual period. One course of treatment comprised one menstrual period and the entire treatment lasted for three courses. The acupuncture group significantly outperformed the ibuprofen group at three, six and nine months after the beginning of treatment. The results indicate that acupuncture combined with moxibustion and herbal compresses is safe and effective for the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea.
A different approach to using acupuncture points includes injecting vitamins. Researchers at the University of California (UCSF, San Francisco) injected vitamin K1 into acupuncture point SP6. They discovered that the acupuncture point injections of vitamin K alleviate dysmenorrhea. The women participating in the study experienced less menstrual pain and a shorter duration of menstrual symptoms.
A survey of the participants finds 94% “agreeable to receiving injection therapy” and 77% would receive monthly injections if the treatment were made available. The researchers note, “This finding is consistent with outcomes from the Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital in Shanghai, China, where the protocol was developed.”
Acupuncture reduces cholesterol. Researchers measured the effects of needling acupuncture point ST40 (Fenglong) on plasma cholesterol levels. In a laboratory experiment, electroacupuncture successfully downregulated LDL cholesterol. Simultaneously, electroacupuncture downregulated several proinflammatory macrophages linked to dyslipidemia: MCP-1, ICAM-1, IL-1gamma. The researchers conclude that electroacupuncture at ST40 downregulates plasma total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and proinflammatory macrophages in cases of hyperlipidemia.
A related laboratory experiment reveals similar findings. Zhang, et. al., conclude that electroacupuncture lowers levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in cases of high cholesterol. Acupuncture points LI11 (Quchi), CV12 (Zhongwan) and ST40 effectively lowered LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides.
Ling Li, et. al., concur that acupuncture lowers both cholesterol and triglycerides. The laboratory research measured biochemical responses to electroacupuncture at acupoint ST40 to map the mechanisms by which acupuncture reduces hyperlipidemia. The study documents that electroacupuncture induces expression of nNOS and Mt1. The NNOS enzyme mediates nitric oxide signaling and plays an important role in cellular signaling, vascular tone, blood pressure, insulin secretion, airway tone, angiogenesis and peristalsis. Mt1 plays an important role in the protection against oxidative stress. Based on these findings, the researchers conclude that electroacupuncture and its effect on nitric oxide signaling transduction is physiologically related to its cholesterol and triglyceride lowering effects.
Y. F. Chen, et. al., conclude that acupuncture prevents and reverses dangerous cellular accumulations of fatty materials in cases of high cholesterol. The laboratory research confirms that needling ST40 prevents and reverses the formation of foam cells. This type of cell forms at the site of fatty streaks and is the beginning of atherosclerotic plaque formation in blood vessels. The presence of foam cells is indicative of an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Based on the research, the investigators note that acupuncture could “play an essential role in treating hyperlipidemia and stopping it from developing into a further level.”
Oxidized LDL cholesterol creates inflammation within blood vessels. Macrophages are attracted to the site of inflammation and consume the LDL cholesterol. Ordinarily, macrophages defend against bacteria and other pathogens. However, macrophages may become engulfed in fatty materials when attempting to eliminate excess cholesterol. Under a microscope, one can see that the macrophages become overrun with cholesterol and other fatty materials. The damaged macrophages take on a foamy appearance, hence the name foam cell. Foam cells indicate that dangerous plaques are beginning to form within the vessels. The researchers conclude that electroacupuncture at acupuncture point ST40 “prevents and reverse(s) the formation of foam cell(s).” In this way, acupuncture helps to fight hyperlipidemia and prevent heart disease.
Acupuncture relieves postpartum depression. Researchers conclude that acupuncture combined with psychological intervention has a similar total efficacy rate for the treatment of postpartum depression as the drug fluoxetine hydrochloride (Prozac®). Acupuncture plus psychological intervention had a 90.7% total effective rate and fluoxetine hydrochloride had a 90.5% total effective rate. The researchers note that acupuncture did not cause any adverse reactions but fluoxetine hydrochloride caused nausea, dizziness, and loss of appetite.
Postpartum depression’s biomedical signs and symptoms occur after childbirth and include: mood swings, unhappiness, insomnia, hypersomnia, psychomotor retardation, suicidal tendencies, cognitive dysfunction, low libido, exhaustion, anger, irritability, lack of appetite, not bonding with the baby, low self-esteem. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), postpartum depression belongs to depression syndrome and may include: depression, low energy, stifling chest sensation, sighing, loss of appetite, insomnia or dream disturbed sleep, frustration, crying, anger, worry, sadness, melancholy.
Subjects in the acupuncture plus psychological intervention group received acupuncture once per day at a rate of five sessions per week for a total of six weeks. The acupuncture needles were 0.35 x 25 mm and were retained for 30 minutes during each acupuncture session. The acupuncture points used in the study were: Baihui (GV20), Sishencong (EX-HN1), Neiguan (PC6), Taichong (LR3), Sanyinjiao (SP6), Zusanli (ST36). Moderate needling techniques were applied to achieve deqi sensations and patient comfortability.
The researchers note, “By regulating the exciting and inhibiting process of the cerebral cortex via the nervous system and immune system, acupuncture is able to balance various neurotransmitters among the intracephalic neuronal synapses, reduce the brain’s reaction to stress, relax the stressful spirit, regulate and treat the physical symptoms and relieve the depressive and anxious state.” They mapped out the acupuncture point selection choices based on TCM theory and note, “Those acupoints in combination are used to correct deficiency and expel blood stasis for both causative factors and symptoms, in order to realize the effects to soothe the liver, regulate qi, wake up the brain and tranquilize the heart-mind.”
GV20 and Sishencong were chosen because, “The head is the gathering site of all yang and the house of the mind.” LI4 and LR3 is the classic Siguan point combination, often referred to as the four gates in English. The researchers note that both are yuan-primary points and together they regulate qi, blood, yin and yang. They also “soothe the liver and regulate qi, open the orifice and calm the mind.” PC6 was cited as a luo-connecting point that benefits heart qi and calms the mind. SP6 was chosen for its ability to access the three yin meridians of the foot and for its ability to regulate qi and blood. ST36 was chosen for its ability to benefit stomach qi, source qi and blood production.
The researchers contrasted integrative complementary medicine with a conventional drug therapy approach to care. Both approaches achieved similar positive patient outcomes. However, the acupuncture plus psychological intervention regime caused no adverse effects whereas the medication regime of care caused several adverse effects.
In related research, a meta-analysis of 87 papers published between 2002 and 2012 finds acupuncture effective in the treatment of labor pain and for the treatment of postpartum complications. Acupuncture was also found effective in inducing uterine contractions and shortening the birthing process. The report calls for continued research on acupuncture, herbal medicine and other forms of complementary medicine for the treatment of human reproductive issues.
An important study on acupuncture for the treatment of depression was recently conducted by University of York researchers. In a randomized controlled trial, the researchers note that acupuncture causes a “significant reduction in symptoms of depression in the short to medium term, and are not associated with serious adverse events.” The researchers conclude that acupuncture is both safe and effective as an adjunct therapy to primary care for patients with depression.
Acupuncture effectively treats posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researchers conducting a randomized controlled study of active duty US military service personnel concludes that acupuncture significantly improves patient outcomes for PTSD patients. Acupuncture also induced secondary improvements: reduced depression and pain, improved mental and physical health functioning.
The researchers note that there is underutilization of mental healthcare for PTSD patients. The research team notes that US military personnel have a 17% PTSD rate after combat deployment. However, research confirms that war veterans are reticent towards receiving medical care for PTSD.
The researchers note several examples of underutilization. An examination of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans with PTSD, anxiety disorder or clinical depression finds that 81% acknowledge that they have mental health disorders. However, only 41% “reported interest in receiving help.” Only 30% sought professional help and 14% saw a mental health specialist. In addition, 25% of service members felt that mental healthcare does not work, 28% felt mental healthcare providers were untrustworthy and 41% felt that mental health treatment “would be embarrassing.”
A study of the general population reveals that only 7% of individuals with PTSD had initial contact with primary care treatment within the first year of illness. A national study reports that 59% of men and 26% of women “believed that PTSD treatment would not help.” The researchers note that acupuncture is “a safe, potentially nonstigmatizing treatment that reduces symptoms of anxiety, depression, and chronic pain….” They add that the underutilization of mental healthcare workers “suggests(s) that a novel and effective treatment option may help increase the proportion of those with PTSD who seek early treatment.” They note, “Acupuncture is a novel and therapeutic option that may help to improve population reach of PTSD treatment.”
The study concludes, “Acupuncture was effective for reducing PTSD symptoms.” The researchers determined that a brief course of acupuncture care “is an effective treatment adjunct for PTSD….” Patients using acupuncture combined with usual care “showed significantly greater improvements” over patients receiving usual care only. The researchers document, “The benefits associated with acupuncture were wide ranging and robust, yielding improvements in PTSD, depression, and pain severity of sufficient magnitude to benefit global mental and physical health functioning.”
The main goal of the study was to evaluate a short course of acupuncture care for military related PTSD. Patients in the study were active duty military members that were primarily recruited from clinics at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Other active duty patients included those from referrals. The study design was 8 acupuncture treatments over a 4 week period. Acupuncture in combination with usual care was compared with patients receiving usual care only without acupuncture. A 12 week follow-up documented significantly greater clinical improvements in the patients receiving the acupuncture combination therapy.
Acupuncture points were applied with filiform needles. Seirin brand J type needles of 0.14, 0.16, and 0.2 mm were used plus 0.2 mm L type needles. Acupuncture points used in the study included:
UB13, UB14, UB15, UB18m, UB20, UB23
Needle retention time was 15 - 30 minutes dependent upon the acupuncture point prescription.
In related research, acupuncture is found more effective than paroxetine (Aropax, Paxil, Sereupin) for relief of PTSD due to earthquake trauma. Researchers from the Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Chengdu Military General Hospital conducted a randomized controlled clinical investigation of 138 patients with earthquake induced PTSD. Electroacupuncture was applied to the treatment group at GV20 (Baihui), Sishencong (Ex-HN 1), GV24 (Shenting) and GB20 (Fengchi). The medication group received oral administration of paroxetine. The medication group showed improvements. However, the reduction scores of PTSD including specific scores for anxiety and depression reduction were better in the electroacupuncture group than the paroxetine group. Based on this investigation, the researchers recommend further studies to measure the effects of electroacupuncture on PTSD patients.
Acupuncture for the treatment of concussions, insomnia, dizziness, headaches, and PTSD is used in the US military. Stars and Stripes published an article on this topic by Dr. Stuessi, a Navy sports medicine physician who works in a special concussion care center. He notes, “I’ve found phenomenal, off-the-charts results doing acupuncture for sleep, for dizziness and headaches.”
Acupuncture induces lasting pain relief. Doctors using MRI neuroradiology scans captured images showing how acupuncture accomplishes enduring analgesia. The researchers state that the MRI images reveal that “acupuncture and pain mobilize overlapping brain regions and the same intrinsic networks.” They add that “acupuncture consists of specific brain activation–modulating patterns that outlast the needling period….”
The researchers note that “most acupuncture studies conclude that the acupuncture-induced decrease in pain perception consists of acupuncture specific brain activations….” The current study concurs with prior research findings. In this investigation, the team of doctors tested pain relief in humans induced by manual needling of acupuncture points LI4, LV3 and ST36.
The LI4 and LV3 acupuncture point combination is a classic Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) prescription for pain relief. Together, these acupuncture points are called Si Guan, roughly translated as the four gates or four bars. They are a set of four acupuncture points located bilaterally on the hands and feet. ST36, translated as leg three miles and located on the lower leg, is also indicated for the TCM function of activating the channels and alleviating pain.
The researchers note that sham acupuncture and true acupuncture are different. They cite “a recent individual meta-analysis based on data from 29 randomized clinical trials with a total of 17,922 patients reported clear differences between real acupuncture and sham procedures for several chronic pain conditions.” Published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the researchers conclude that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain including neck and back pain, shoulder pain, osteoarthritis and headaches.
The new MRI findings demonstrate that the effective actions exerted by true acupuncture points are specific to certain brain networks. A great deal of research on the brain pathways and biochemical mechanisms relating to acupuncture treatments has been published within the last two years. One of the more intriguing studies demonstrates that a biochemical responsible for pain reduction is activated by acupuncture.
Acupuncture combined with herbal medicine improves sleep. Patients suffering from insomnia underwent a study comparing acupuncture plus herbs with the drug estazolam. The acupuncture plus herbs group obtained a “significantly better overall effective rate” than the estazolam group. Patients in the acupuncture plus herbs group enjoyed a 96.8% total effective rate compared with the estazolam group receiving a 74.2% total effective rate.
Estazolam is a benzodiazepine. It is used in the treatment of insomnia and exerts its effective action by depressing the central nervous system. This induces drowsiness and assists in overcoming sleeplessness. The researchers found estazolam effective but it caused several adverse effects. Patients experienced headaches, fatigue, dry mouth and dizziness as a result of taking the drug.
Acupuncture combined with herbal medicine had significantly better patient outcomes than estazolam with no adverse effects. The researchers document that the acupuncture plus herbs “improve(s) the patients’ sleep quality….”
The acupuncture points used in the study were:
The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal formula used in the study was Shen Zao An Shen Tang. The ingredients in this formula are:
Dang Shen (Radix Codonopsis)
Suan Zao Ren (Semen Ziziphi Spinosae)
Bai Zhu (Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae)
Huang Qi (Radix Astragali)
Fu Shen (Sclerotium Poriae Pararadicis)
Yuan Zhi (Radix Polygalae)
Long Yan Rou (Arillus Longan)
Bai Zi Ren (Semen Platycladi)
Ye Jiao Teng (Caulis Polygoni Multiflori)
Fu Ling (Poria)
Dang Gui (Radix Angelicae Sinensis)
Chen Pi (Pericarpium Citri Reticulatae)
Cu Chai Hu (vinegar-processed Radix Bupleuri)
Yu Jin (Radix Curcumae)
Gan Cao (Radix et Rhizoma Glycyrrhizae)
The researchers defined a total clinical recovery as patients restored to normal sleep or having greater than 6 hours of sound and refreshing sleep per night. A marked improvement was defined as patients having better sleep quality with an increase of sleep time greater than 3 hours per night. A minor improvement was defined as sleep increased by less than 3 hours and a failure was defined as no improvement or worsening of the condition.
Acupuncture relieves migraines. Researchers conclude that acupuncture decreases the frequency of migraine attacks and reduces migraine intensity. Additionally, researchers have discovered biological mechanisms activated by acupuncture in the alleviation of migraines.
Vijayalakshmi et. al., finds electroacupuncture more effective than “conventional drug therapy” for the treatment of migraines. Electroacupuncture significantly outperformed the drug flunarizine in the treatment of migraines. Patients showed superior patient outcomes using acupuncture including pain relief, psychological profile and quality of life improvements, and reductions in migraine related disabilities. The researchers formally recommend acupuncture as an alternative or adjunct method of care for migraine patients.
One key pain relieving mechanism may be acupuncture’s ability to stimulate a pain relieving substance. Goldman et. al., from the University of Rochester Medical Center (New York) and the Boston University School of Medicine (Massachusetts) note that “acupuncture releases a natural pain-relieving molecule into the body…. Adenosine is a key to reducing pain during acupuncture treatment.”
Ling Zhao et. al., conclude that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of migraines and reduces pain intensity levels. Zhou et. al., find acupuncture effective in the prevention of migraines and links acupuncture’s therapeutic benefits to its ability to stimulate MLCK expression. The expression of myosin light-chain kinase (MLCK) is involved in the regulation of smooth muscle contraction. The researchers document a correlation between acute migraine attacks and decreases of MLCK via the CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide) signal system. The researchers discovered that applying acupuncture to acupoint GB20 (Fengchi, Wind Pool) successfully upregulates MLCK expression and has “preventative and curative” effects for migraine patients.
The research confirms Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory stating that acupuncture point GB20 is effective in the treatment of headaches. According to TCM theory, GB20 benefits the head, benefits hearing and vision, clears the sense organs, and alleviates pain. This acupoint is located below the occiput in the hollow between the origins of the sternomastoid and trapezius muscles. It is a pair of acupoints found in the depression at the base of the skull. Indications for application of GB20 include headaches, migraines, eye disorders, vertigo, tinnitus, insomnia, febrile diseases, seizures, sinusitis and rhinorrhea. This point is important in TCM because it is the meeting point of the gallbladder and sanjiao channels with the yang motility and yang linking vessels.
Dr. Cayir et. al., conclude that there is a “clinically relevant decrease in MMP-2 activity in patients with migraine treated with acupuncture. The mechanism underlying the effect of acupuncture in alleviating pain may be associated with a decrease in MMP-2 activity.” Matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) is an enzyme involved in vascularization, tissue remodeling, and inflammatory responses.
Dr. Cayir et. al., administered migraine patients a total of “10 sessions of acupuncture treatment. The points selected were bilateral ST8, ST44, LI4, LI11, LIV3, SP6, GB1, GB14, GB20, GV14, GV20, Yintang, Taiyang and ear Shenmen.” Blood samples were taken before and after treatment to determine MMP-2 concentration and activity levels. Acupuncture significantly alleviated the migraine pain intensity. Notably, MMP-2 concentrations remained relatively stable but MMP-2 activity significantly decreased.
Jie Yang et. al., note that acupuncture “induce(s) different cerebral glucose metabolism changes in pain-related brain regions and reduce(s) intensity of pain” for patients with migraines. In a randomized-controlled study using PET-CT neuroimaging, acupuncture was shown to be effective for migraine pain reduction. The imaging revealed that acupuncture raised glycometabolism in the middle temporal cortex, orbital front cortex, middle frontal gyrus, angular gyrus, post cingulate cortex, the precuneus and the middle cingulate cortex. Acupuncture simultaneously lowered glycometabolism in the parahippocampus, hippocampus, fusiform, postcentral gyrus, and the cerebellum in migraine patients. The study also showed that acupuncture point choices determined the changes in brain glycometabolism. The researchers note that this measurable phenomenon indicates acupuncture point specificity; specific acupuncture points have specific effects.
Subjects with migraines were separated into three groups: traditional acupuncture group (TAG), controlled acupuncture group (CAG), non-intervention group. The TAG group received acupuncture stimulation at TB5 (Waiguan), GB34 (Yanglingquan) and GB20 (Fengchi). The CAG group received acupuncture at ST8 (Touwei), LI6 (Pianli) and ST36 (Zusanli). The non-intervention group did not receive treatment.
The TAG group was more effective than the other groups at reducing migraine related pain. Additionally, the glycometabolism was higher in the TAG group than in the non-intervention group in the middle temporal cortex, orbital frontal cortex, middle frontal gyrus, angular gyrus, post cingulate cortex, precuneus, and the middle cingulate cortex. The TAG group decreased glycometabolism in the parahippocampus, hippocampus, fusiform, postcentral gyrus and cerebellum more than in the non-intervention group. The CAG group more greatly increased glycometabolism in the middle temporal cortex, supratemporal gyrus, supramarginal gyrus and the middle cingulate cortex than was measured in the non-intervention group. The CAG group decreased glycometabolism more greatly than the non-intervention group in the cerebellum.
Guo et. al., conclude that acupuncture is more effective than flunarizine hydrochloride for controlling migraines. Researchers compared a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) combination of acupuncture and tuina massage with the oral medication flunarizine hydrochloride. The TCM treatment was significantly more effective than the drug treatment for reducing pain frequency, intensity and duration due to migraines. The acupuncture combined with tuina group had a total effective rate of 93.8% whereas the medication group only achieved a 63% total effective rate.
Additionally, the acupuncture with tuina group had significantly fewer relapses. As a result of the findings the researchers conclude, “Combining electroacupuncture and local tuina can obtain better effect and lower relapse rate than oral Flunarizine Hydrochloride capsules in migraine patients.”
Acupuncture and moxibustion alleviate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Research confirms that acupuncture and moxibustion significantly reduce abdominal pain, diarrhea, and the ratio of abnormal stools. The research was conducted on patients with IBS-D, a type of irritable bowel syndrome characterized by insidious attacks of diarrhea. The total effective rate was 96.7% with many patients experiencing a complete recovery with no relapses. The positive patient outcomes for IBS-D patients suggest that additional research on IBS-C (constipation IBS) and IBS-A (alternating stool IBS) is warranted.
Over 65% of patients in the study demonstrated “marked effect.” The study’s criteria for marked effect are: completely asymptomatic, normal frequency of bowel movements, normal stools, no relapse after three months. An additional 30% of patients experienced improvements. The criteria for “improvements” are significant reductions in symptoms and relapse within three months but only with mild symptom intensity.
As a standalone procedure, acupuncture demonstrated a 76.7% total effective rate including reductions in abdominal pain, diarrhea, and frequency of bowel movements. Acupuncture combined with moxibustion increased the total effective rate to 96.7%. The researchers note that “acupuncture combined with ginger and salt-partitioned moxibustion can obtain a remarkable effect for IBS-D. This integrative therapy is simple and convenient.”
The researchers note that the biomedical definition of IBS includes abdominal pain or discomfort with 2 out of 3 of the following symptoms: relief by defecation, changes in frequency of stools, changes in the form of stools (hard, loose, lumpy or watery). IBS may be further differentiated by greater than 3 bowel movements per day and urgent bowel movements. The symptoms occur for 12 weeks during a 12 month period but are not necessarily consecutive.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
The researchers note that IBS-D is differentiated into 3 patterns within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) according to the Diagnosis and Treatment Protocol of Integrative Chinese and Western Medicine for Irritable Bowel Syndrome by Chen, et. al. Type 1 is liver qi stagnation with spleen deficiency. Symptoms may be triggered by emotional disturbances and include: diarrhea, abdominal pain, alleviation by defecation, and lower abdominal cramping. Secondary symptoms of type 1 IBS-D are: borborygmus, flatulence, mucus in stools, depression, sighing, irritability, poor appetite, and abdominal distention. Signs include a thin-white tongue coating and a wiry pulse.
Type 2 IBS-D is due to spleen and stomach deficiency. Diarrhea, especially after food intake, is a primary symptom along with loose stools, watery stools, mucus in stool, poor appetite, and abdominal distention after eating, gastric fullness and general digestive organ discomfort. Secondary symptoms include abdominal pain relieved by pressure, borborygmus, mental and physical fatigue, abdominal bloating, and reluctance to speak. Signs include a sallow complexion, a pale tongue with teethmarks, a white tongue coating, and a thready-weak pulse.
Acupuncture is highly effective in reducing neck pain and restoring range of motion. A study comparing two manual acupuncture techniques finds one technique has a very high total effective rate and recovery rate. A second technique examined in the study, although effective, had lower scores. A computer monitoring thermographic changes within the neck measured significantly higher neck temperatures induced by the superior acupuncture technique. The researchers link the ability of this acupuncture technique to reduce pain with its ability to warm the neck.
The setting the mountain on fire (Shao Shan Huo) needle manipulation technique produced a complete recovery rate of 68.3% and a total effective rate of 98.3%. The even reinforcing-reducing technique produced a 28.3% complete recovery rate and an 81.7% total effective rate. Complete recovery from neck pain was determined by the following criteria: no remaining symptoms, complete improvement of positive signs, normal neck range of motion. The total effective rate was calculated by adding the following groups: complete recovery, significant improvements, and slight improvements.
Needles were applied to local acupuncture points of the neck known as Huatuojiaji acupoints. The Huatuojiaji points were needled lateral to the cervical vertebrae from C4 to C7. In classical Chinese medicine texts, Huatuojiaji points begin below C7 at T1, however, modern day licensed acupuncturists often use Huatuojiaji points located 0.5 to 1 cun lateral to the cervical vertebrae. Needle retention time for both acupuncture technique groups was 20 minutes following manual needle manipulation techniques. All needles were 0.30 mm x 40 mm. All patients were treated one time per day with ten treatments comprising one course of care. The results were tabulated after two courses of treatment.
The setting the mountain on fire technique demonstrated significantly superior objective and subjective clinical outcomes. The researchers note that this technique was first described in the Jin Zhen Fu (Ode to the Gold Needle), a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) classic text written during the Ming Dynasty. They add that modern studies confirm that the setting the mountain on fire technique increases blood circulation to the limbs and induces “dilation of capillaries.”
This study compared two standard acupuncture techniques used for the treatment of cervical radiculopathy. This condition was the inclusion requirement for participation in the study. All participants had cervical radiculopathy characterized by neck pain that radiates to the upper limbs, decreased sensation in the irritated nerve pathway, muscular atrophy, and decreased muscle strength. Objective measurements for cervical radiculopathy included the following inclusion criteria: positive Spurling sign, positive brachial plexus tension test, X-rays showing vertebral bone hyperplasia, joint hyperplasia, intervertebral space narrowing, decreased intervertebral foramen size, CT or MRI scan demonstrating “vertebral outgrowth and nerve root canal stenosis.” An additional inclusion criterion was the Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis of “neck pain due to wind-cold obstructing the meridians.”
A total of 120 patients met the criteria for inclusion and were randomly divided into the setting the mountain on fire and even reinforcing-reducing acupuncture groups. Both groups demonstrated high levels of efficacy but the complete recovery rate of the setting the mountain on fire group was significantly superior at 68.3% versus the even reinforcing-reducing group at 28.3%.
Acupuncture benefits Alzheimer’s disease patients. Clinical research published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science finds acupuncture plus moxibustion effective in improving cognitive function and improving the general quality of life for Alzheimer’s disease patients. The research, supported by the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, measured an 83.3% total effective rate of acupuncture combined with moxibustion.
The acupuncture points used were GV20 (Baihui) and Sishencong (Ex-Hn-1). Filiform acupuncture needles (0.30 mm x 40-50 mm) were inserted at a 30 degree angle to the area just below the galea aponeurotica. Twirling method was applied without lifting and thrusting at a rate of 200 times per minute for 2-3 minutes followed by a needle retention time of 5 minutes prior to repeating the process. Engagement by family members involved instruction to verbally communicate and help the patient move their limbs during the needling regime.
Moxibustion was applied on top of an herbal cake comprised Fu Zi (Radix Aconiti Laterails Preparata), Ma Huang (Fructus Aristolochiae), Rou Gui (Cortex Cinnamoni), Gan Jiang (Rhizma Zingiberis), and other related herbs. The cakes were placed at GV14 (Dazhui) and BL23 (Shenshu). Moxa cones were placed on top of the cakes. The acupuncture and moxibustion treatments were applied once per day for 10 days. A three day rest period followed the treatment and this process was repeated two more times prior to clinical evaluations. The researchers concluded that acupuncture and moxibustion are “safe and effective” and are “beneficial to the general improvement of the quality of life of AD (Alzheimer’s disease) patients….”
These findings involving human clinical trials are confirmed by electron microscopy laboratory research demonstrating that acupuncture protects the brain cells of Alzheimer’s disease patients. Published in Neural Regeneration Research, investigators identified major brain structures that are preserved by using electroacupuncture and moxibustion. The research team documented a powerful neuroprotective effect induced by electroacupuncture including specific beneficial changes in brain chemistry.
Acupuncture was applied to acupuncture points GV20 (Baihui) and BL23 (Shenshu) on laboratory rats with induced Alzheimer’s disease pathology. The brains were examined with electron microscopy which revealed that rats treated with electroacupuncture preserves the hippocampus structure of the brain. The researchers discovered that “neuronal cell injury was markedly reduced” as a result of acupuncture. On the other hand, the control group that received no acupuncture or moxibustion showed enormous damage to the hippocampus.
Additional benefits were discovered. Transmission electron microscope findings revealed that electroacupuncture and moxibustion successfully downregulated axin protein expression and upregulated β-catenin protein expression. This was true for all three treatment groups: electroacupuncture only, moxibustion only and a third electroacupuncture combined with moxibustion group.
The research team reports, “The present study demonstrates that electroacupuncture pretreatment has a neuroprotective function in the hippocampus, suggesting that this technique could be used to protect learning and memory functions, and prevent senile dementia.” They added that in the hippocampus “neuronal cell injury was markedly reduced in all three pretreatment groups; organelles were visible in the cytoplasm, and chromatin appeared normal.” The researchers add that optimal results identified in the study were achieved by combining electroacupuncture with moxibustion. The investigators concluded, “The combination of moxibustion and electroacupuncture obtained a better neuroprotective effect than either technique alone….”
Electroacupuncture and moxibustion regulate axin and β-catenin in the brain. The proteins interact with each other and are part of Wnt signaling pathways, a group of signal transduction pathways composed of proteins that signal from outside a cell to its interior. The researchers note, “We therefore propose that the mechanisms of action underlying the potential benefits of acupuncture and moxibustion in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease involve the regulation of Wnt signaling via alterations in axin and β-catenin expression.”
MRI imaging confirms that acupuncture benefits brain activity in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Researchers investigated the effects of two acupuncture points on the brains of human Alzheimer disease patients using fMRI imaging with a SIEMENS verio 3-Tesla scanner. They found that acupuncture “can enhance the hippocampal connectivity in AD (Alzheimer’s disease) patients.” The MRI scans demonstrate that acupuncture “increased connectivity” in the hippocampus in patients with AD. Alzheimer’s disease damages the hippocampus resulting in memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, dementia and disorientation.
The controlled clinical investigation of human subjects measured multiple regions of disrupted connectivity in AD patients. After acupuncture, MRI imaging revealed that AD patients had significant improvements in connectivity for both frontal and lateral temporal regions of the hippocampus. The researchers note, “Due to the cognitive impairment associated with AD, acupuncture on specific acupoints can modulate the cerebral blood flow and strengthen the hippocampal connectivity in AD patients.”
The fMRI imaging measured the effects of acupuncture points LV3 (Taichong) and LI4 (Hegu) on the brain. The researchers added that acupuncture has long-lasting and beneficial effects on the human brain. They note, “Our study provides new evidence that acupuncture has a striking, sustained effect on AD patients.”
Related research reveals that acupuncture prevents brain cell loss in memory related areas of the brain and improves cognition. The laboratory findings show that acupuncture prevents neuron loss in the hippocampus. Using a water maze test, mice who received acupuncture showed significantly less cognitive deficits. The combination of improved maze test results combined with greater preservation of brain neurons prompted the researchers to suggest that acupuncture may help human subjects suffering from cognitive disorders. The researchers note, “These results suggest that reducing neuron loss in the hippocampus by acupuncture is a potential therapeutic approach for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and cognitive impairment diseases.”
Acupuncture reduces pain and improves sleep for fibromyalgia patients. Researchers determined that “acupuncture is an effective form of treatment for individuals with fibromyalgia” in a meta-analysis of eleven studies. The investigators add that additional research can help to “enhance and extend the effective therapeutic use of acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia.”
Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by widespread pain, heightened sensitivity to pain upon pressure, exhaustion, insomnia and aching joints. Other symptoms include digestive complaints, numbness, tingling, headaches, anxiety and impaired cognition. The overall presentation of fibromyalgia is pain throughout the body and tenderness.
The researchers cited studies finding acupuncture effective for reducing pain at tender points. Overall quality of life scores improved with acupuncture including significant reductions in sleep disturbances. Patients receiving acupuncture treatments also demonstrated lower rates of relapses and significant reductions in analgesic medication dependence.
One of the studies in the meta-analysis used CT scans on the acupuncture patients treated for fibromyalgia. The CT scans revealed “increased u-opioid receptors” involved in the reduction of referred pain as a result of acupuncture treatments. The u-opioid receptors are a class of opioid receptors with an affinity for enkephalins and beta-endorphins. Activation of u-opioid receptors causes pain reduction and sedation. Another study in the scientific review found electroacupuncture especially helpful in reducing pain levels.
One study in the meta-analysis emphasized the importance of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) differential diagnostics. Mist et. al., examined a group of women diagnosed with fibromyalgia and further differentiated the disorder into TCM diagnostics: deficiency of qi and blood, stagnation of qi and blood, stagnation of liver qi. Mist et. al., concluded that TCM diagnostics can be used in conjunction with scientific investigations to “form more homogeneous groups” thereby improving the accuracy of findings. The meta-analysis also demonstrates that acupuncture is effective as a standalone treatment modality or as an adjunct modality to other forms of medical care.
Acupuncture enhances the therapeutic effects of paroxetine, a drug often given the trade name Paxil, Aropax or Seroxat. Patients receiving acupuncture plus paroxetine showed greater clinical improvements in obsessive-compulsive symptoms, depression and anxiety than patients receiving only paroxetine. Researchers discovered the synergistic effects of acupuncture combined with paroxetine plus another important advantage of adding acupuncture to paroxetine intake. Acupuncture sped up the effective action of therapeutic benefits. The researchers note, “acupuncture/electroacupuncture has a rapid onset of therapeutic effect and produces a noticeable improvement in obsessive-compulsive, depressive and anxiety symptoms.”
Acupuncture and electroacupuncture were found equally beneficial in overall therapeutic results. Scores in individual areas of improvement varied between acupuncture and electroacupuncture therapy when combined with paroxetine. Importantly, electroacupuncture showed significant improvements over manual acupuncture in reducing recurrent and multiple medical symptoms of no known organic cause. Electroacupuncture also demonstrated significant efficacy over manual acupuncture in reducing depression related hostility and phobic anxiety. Both manual acupuncture and electroacupuncture showed significant clinical benefits in reducing primary unipolar depression when combined with paroxetine with significant improvements over and above those of paroxetine only.
The researchers cite several important findings as the basis for the investigation. Roschke, et al. published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, “Acupuncture is more effective than oral antidepressants in improving depressive symptoms.” Yeung et al. document that acupuncture is effective for patients with “poor outcomes after antidepressant medications.” Zhang et al. confirm that acupuncture is both safe and effective for treating depression.
The study confirms three major findings. Acupuncture, electroacupuncture and paroxetine are effective in the treatment of primary unipolar depression. Acupuncture and electroacupuncture combined with paroxetine has a “rapid onset of therapeutic effect.” Additionally, acupuncture and electroacupuncture combined with paroxetine synergistically improves conditions of obsessive-compulsive behavior and anxiety in patients with depression. The results are better for patients combining acupuncture or electroacupuncture with paroxetine than those only taking paroxetine. The researchers also note that acupuncture and electroacupuncture combined with paroxetine “is a safe treatment for primary unipolar depression.”
The researchers used a standard set of acupuncture points with minor modifications for all patients in the study. This varies from customized clinical care wherein a licensed acupuncturist has more flexibility in the acupuncture point prescription based on differential diagnostics. Although the approach of using one set of acupuncture points for all patients is common in many research models, it is considered a variation from the norm according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles wherein each patient receives a custom acupuncture point prescription based on an exact presentation of conditions.
The research team cited several studies finding the governing, pericardium, spleen, liver and stomach meridians effective for the treatment of depression. These findings combined with a presentation of Chinese medicine principles for the treatment of depression were given as the reasoning for the acupuncture point choices. The primary acupuncture points used in the study were Baihui (DU20), Yintang (EX-HN3), Fengfu (DU16), Fengchi (GB20), Dazhui (DU14), Neiguan (PC6) and Sanyinjiao (SP6). Minor customizations based on some indications were added. Zusanli (ST36) was added for cases involving poor appetite or fatigue. Shenmen (HT7) was added for patients with sleep disturbances. Shuaigu (GB8) was added for patients with headaches. Zhigou (TB6) was added for patients with constipation.
Wang, et al. confirm that acupuncture combined with SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) is more effective than using SSRI medications alone. The additional research also confirms that acupuncture potentially reduces the “delay before the onset of the therapeutic action of SSRIs.” Wang, et al. note, “Acupuncture combined with SSRIs shows a statistically significant benefit over a 6-week period compared with SSRI administration only.” The research team notes that acupuncture is safe and produces no adverse effects. Wang, et al. add that acupuncture may allow for “the reduction of the dose of antidepressants and their associated adverse clinical outcome.”
The researchers note, “We showed that acupuncture combined with SSRIs produces statistically significantly larger reductions of HDRS (Hamilton Depression Rating Scale) values than SSRIs alone. This additional benefit was evident from the first week and continued throughout 6 weeks of treatment.” The investigators note that these findings are consistent with another body of research including a 6 week controlled, randomized trial of acupuncture combined with paroxetine.
A Stanford University study finds acupuncture safe and cost-effective for relieving pain in children. Dr. Golianu, MD (Department of Anesthesiology, Stanford University), et. al., note research confirming that acupuncture is “useful in chronic pain conditions” adding that it may be clinically valuable in an integrative medical setting. The research documents acupuncture’s ability to stimulate natural pain killers within the body, dynorphins and endorphins, along with several other important biological responses involved in pain management. The researchers cited multiple findings of acupuncture successfully relieving headaches, migraines, abdominal pain, fibromyalgia, pelvic pain, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), acute post-operative pain, and post-operative delirium.
Children Accept Acupuncture
The Stanford University research team cites findings that “53% of children were initially apprehensive of acupuncture needles, following their first needle 64% felt it did not hurt, and furthermore would recommend it to someone else.” In adolescents, 67% report acupuncture as “pleasant” and 70% report that acupuncture reduced pain levels. The receptivity to acupuncture may be due, in part, to acupuncture’s ability to induce deep relaxation in patients combined with lasting analgesic effects.
The researchers note that, “Acupuncture can be a useful adjuvant in the care of pediatric patients with painful conditions, both in the chronic and acute setting.” Citing Lin, et. al., young children and adolescents experienced significant pain relief from acupuncture treatments. The children also found acupuncture “highly acceptable.” On safety, the research confirms “that acupuncture is safe when performed by appropriately trained practitioners.” In the United States, acupuncturists are licensed medical professionals with medical board oversight in most states.
The researchers note that acupuncture decreases headache frequency and severity across several controlled studies. In addition, acupuncture reduces the need for medications and is proven effective in treating migraines. The research team cites a randomized trial of children with migraines finding acupuncture effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of migraines. Another pediatric study meeting the review standards of the research team finds cold laser acupuncture effective for reducing the frequency of migraines and tension headaches.
The researchers cited findings showing acupuncture in adults effective for treating IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, “a comparative effectiveness trial of acupuncture compared to two antispasmodics (pinaverium bromide and trimebutin maleate) showed acupuncture as more effective than these standard therapies for IBS.” A pediatric study found acupuncture effective for the treatment of intermittent abdominal pain. Given the prevalence of abdominal pain in children, the researchers recommend further studies investigating the “dose or frequency and duration of acupuncture treatment required.”
Fibromyalgia and Arthritis
The research team did not find randomized controlled pediatric studies on the treatment of fibromyalgia. However, adult studies find acupuncture “superior to standard care alone.” In addition, “Acupuncture was found to change cortical responses to painful stimuli in fibromyalgia patients, suggesting a complex inhibitory modulation may be active in the central nervous system in fibromyalgia patients.” The same scenario was found in the case of juvenile arthritis. No pediatric studies have been conducted but adult studies find acupuncture effective for the treatment of osteoarthritis. For fibromyalgia and arthritis, the research team recommends specific investigations on the effects of acupuncture on children.
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- Qigong Helps Weight Loss For Diabetics - New Research
- Acupuncture Plus Massage Stops Vertigo - New Study
- Acupuncture De Qi Sensations Now Quantifiable
- Acupuncture And Herbs Halt Bedwetting
- Acupuncture Bests Drug For Overactive Bladder
- Acupuncture Stabilizes Balance After Stroke
- Acupuncture Reverses High Cholesterol Cell Fat
- Acupuncture, Moxa, Cupping And Herbs Relieve Asthma
- Acupuncture & Herbs Best Pharmaceutical For Headaches
- Acupuncture Restores Hand Function for Paralysis Patients
- Acupuncture Controls Overactive Bladder
- Acupuncture Pain Killing Mystery Revealed
- Acupuncture Improves Head Trauma Recovery - New Research
- Acupuncture Targets Lung Cancer Chemotherapy Drug
- Acupuncture Heals Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Migraine Vanishes With Acupuncture and Tuina
- Acupuncture Reverses Brain Damage After Stroke
- Acupuncture Cuts Rib Fracture Pain
- Acupuncture Proven To Heal Tennis Elbow
- Electron Microscope Reveals Acupuncture Helps Alzheimer’s Patients
- Acupuncture & Herbs Enhance Fertility Treatments Finding
- PID Acupuncture CEU Webinar & New Research
- Acupuncture & Herbs Reduce Breast Pain And Nodules
- Acupuncture Lowers Chemo Side Effects, Ups Immunity
- Acupuncture Cuts Morphine Addiction - New Study
- Acupuncture Lowers Bone Marrow Biopsy Pain - New
- California Acupuncture Board Exam Stats 2014
- Acupuncture Stops Knee Pain - New Research
- Texas Rangers Back With Acupuncture
- Acupuncture & Herbs Relieve Ulcerative Colitis - New Study
- Acupuncture & Herbs Best Drugs For Menstrual Pain and Cramps
- Acupuncture Beats Drugs For Shingles Nerve Pain
- New - Acupuncture Helps Methamphetamine Withdrawal
- Acupuncture Cuts Post-Surgical Pain - New Study
- Acupuncture Matches Drugs For Dust Mite Allergy Relief
- Acupuncture With Massage Heals Lumbar Disc Herniation
- Acupuncture Assists Recovery For Brain Injury Related Paralysis
- Acupuncture Synergizes Epilepsy Relief– New Finding
- Acupuncture Antidepressant Connection For Depression
- Acupuncture Cuts Low Back Pain
- Five Key Acupuncture Discoveries
- Acupuncture Improves Appendicitis Recovery, New Study
- New - Acupuncture Relief From Low Back Pain
- Ear Acupuncture Sedates Anxiety - New Study
- Medical Breakthrough - Pain Reduced By Acupuncture
- Acupuncture Helps Parkinson’s Disease Patients
- Acupuncture Lowers Hypertension - New Biology
- Acupuncture Beats Drugs For Rheumatoid Arthritis, New Study
- Acupuncture Placebo Sham Revealed
- Acupuncture Prevents Hysterectomy Complications Trial
- Acupuncture & Massage For Lumbar Disc Herniation – New Study
- New: Acupuncture Relieves Heel Pain & Plantar Fasciitis
- Update: Acupuncture Reduces Depression and Insomnia
- Acupuncture Found Effective For Post-Surgical Shoulder Pain
- Scalp Acupuncture Effective For Stroke – New Study
- Acupuncture Relieves Knee Osteoarthritis – New Study
- Acupuncture Treats Depression By Normalizing Genes - New Study
- Acupuncture MRI Scan Shows Alzheimer’s Disease Benefit
- New - Infertility To Pregnancy With Acupuncture & Herbs
- Acupuncture Emergency Room Hospital Care Gets A Yes
- Acupuncture Point Signals Neurological Pathway
- Acupuncture & Ginger Moxibustion Effective for Tinnitus - New Study
- Acupuncture For Schizophrenia Treatment Reviewed
- Finally, Acupuncture Proven To Reduce Pain
- Acupuncture Regulates Sex Hormones in PCOS
- Acupuncture & Herbs Effective For Cerebral Vasospasm - New Study
- Acupuncture For Heart Failure Recovery - New Research
- Wild Yam Lowers Hypertension - New Study
- Evidence Shows Acupuncture Helps Cancer Patients
- Herbs Help Dolphin Overcome Ulcerative Stomatitis Lesions
- New Microscopy - Acupuncture Restores Heroin Addict Brain Cells
- Acupuncture Heals Facial Paralysis - New Study
- New X-rays Reveal Acupuncture Points
- Acupuncture Tongue Diagnosis Pattern Found For HIV
- New - Tongue Acupuncture for Depression Effective
- Deadline for Acupuncture ICD-10 Insurance Billing Codes Approaches
- New Acupuncture For IBS Finding
- Acupuncture Reduces Stroke Risk Discovery
- Now Acupuncture Proven A Powerful Anti-Inflammatory
- Acupuncture Calms Anxiety Disorder - New Research
- Acupuncture Lowers Hypertension - New Finding
- Acupuncture Benefits Cervical Spine - New Study
- New - Acupuncture Dragon & Tiger Relieves Menstrual Cramps & Pain
- Acupuncture Found Superior To Drug for Neck Disc Pain