Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture News and Research


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. 

State, federal, and international organizations recognize and regulate acupuncture and herbs after thousands of years of widespread utilization.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient form of medicine including acupuncture, herbal medicine, tuina therapeutic massage, dietetics, movement arts including qi gong and taiji (tai chi), and more. Its roots date back to over 5,300 years ago; Otzi the mummy, discovered in the Northern Italian Alps, had numerous acupuncture point locations tattooed on his body (Dorfer et al.).


Needles and Herbs 


Modern scientific evidence confirms the therapeutic value of acupuncture and MRI studies confirm that specific acupuncture points induce hemodynamic changes in specific brain networks relating to the healing of specific medical disorders (He et al.). There are approximately 20,000 licensed acupuncturists in the USA and there are numerous state acupuncture medical boards and national organizations providing oversight of the profession. Nonetheless, the wheels of the federal government often turn slowly and the profession, technically, did not exist in the USA until recently. 

Researchers find acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine effective for the treatment of tinnitus. Results indicate that a combination of herbs and acupuncture is more effective than using only herbal medicine. The research team chose a potent herbal formula combined with a classic acupuncture point prescription with a subtle addition. Two Master Tung acupuncture points were added to the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupoint prescription. The combined protocol of acupuncture and herbs achieved significant positive patient outcomes.


Ear Point


Researchers selected 100 patients with tinnitus for inclusion in a clinical trial. They were randomly distributed them into a control group and an observation group, each consisting of 50 patients. Control group patients were administered a standardized Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal decoction. The observation group was treated with acupuncture and the identical TCM herbal formula. The results were compared after three courses of treatment: the group receiving acupuncture and herbs achieved an 88% total effective rate. The control group, receiving only herbal medicine, achieved a 68% total effective rate. The data indicates that acupuncture combined with herbal medicine, in an integrated protocol, achieves optimal clinical efficacy for patients with tinnitus and associated hearing dysfunction. 

Researchers find Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) modalities including acupuncture, tuina, and moxibustion effective for the treatment of pain associated with osteoporosis. Conclusions reached across several studies delineate specific benefits resulting from the application of acupuncture. Acupuncture outperformed estrogen replacement therapy for bone pain reduction in women with osteoporosis. Related studies confirm the benefits of TCM therapies. Moxibustion (a warming technique employing the use of burning mugwort) at four key acupoints was found successful at regulating blood plasma estradiol levels.


Human spine as seen through transparent human


Additional studies are consistent with these findings. Another recent study finds acupuncture combined with tuina (traditional Chinese medical massage) beneficial for bone metabolism. In addition, acupuncture outperformed drug therapy for the treatment of osteoporotic spinal compression fracture related pain. The aforementioned study confirms the analgesic effects for which acupuncture is renown. 

Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of depression and generalized anxiety disorder and enhances the effects Paxil.

Researchers from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (Wang et al.) find acupuncture effective for the alleviation of both depression and anxiety for patients taking drug therapy. Two types of acupuncture demonstrated proven efficacy. Both manual acupuncture and electroacupuncture increased treatment outcomes for mild to moderate depression patients taking paroxetine (also known by the trade name Paxil). Manual acupuncture and electroacupuncture provided patients with a greater quality of life, as assessed by the World Health Organization's WHOQOL-BREF scale. The assessment technique evaluates the perceived quality of life of each patient, overall health conditions, psychological parameters, physiological changes, and environmental perceptions.


Abdominal needle insertion in progress


In a related study, Chen et al. demonstrated that patients with generalized anxiety disorder receiving standard acupuncture had an 86.2% improvement rate. After the additional of abdominal acupuncture points, the patient outcome rate increased to 89.6%. It is worth noting that abdominal acupuncture shows slightly preferable results over non-abdominal acupuncture for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. 

Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of aphasia after a stroke. Acupuncture patients regained the ability to communicate through speech and written language at a similar rate as drug therapy patients. More importantly, a combination of acupuncture with drug therapy produced optimal positive patient outcomes. Acupuncture, as a standalone therapy, produced a 46% total effective rate and donepezfil (a cognition enhancing drug) produced a 50% total effective rate. Significantly, the combination of acupuncture with donepezfil produced a 77% total effective rate. This important discovery finds the combined protocol of acupuncture and drugs an important treatment option for patients having lost the ability to communicate after a stroke.




Stroke, also referred to as cerebral infarction, is the second most common cause of death and disability in the world. Aphasia (the inability to communicate through speech or written language) is one of the effects of stroke, occurring in 20–40% of post-stroke patients. These patients experience a significant loss in quality of life due to the inability to express their thoughts or communicate. Early recovery from aphasia is crucial in restoring speech and language capabilities. 

Acupuncture outperforms drugs for the depression total cure rate with no serious adverse effects.

Researchers from Jinan University (Guangzhou, China) conclude that acupuncture is effective for the alleviation of depression. In the study, the acupuncture treatment group achieved a total efficacy rate of 88.9% and the drug control group achieved an efficacy rate of 84.8%. Patients in the control group received administration of the pharmaceutical medication fluoxetine (known by the trade name Prozac®). The researchers conclude that acupuncture slightly outperforms fluoxetine for the treatment of depression. In addition, acupuncture treatment displays certain advantages compared with anti-depressant drugs. Acupuncture achieved a higher cure rate and the drugs had a significant adverse reaction rate.


 LI4 (Hegu)


Depression is a common mental disorder wherein patients experience prolonged melancholy. In serious cases, depression might lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors, flattening of emotions, weakening willpower and physical pathologies. Globally, depression is responsible for a serious impact on patients’ work performance and quality of lives. Hence, finding the most effective treatment has become a matter of utmost urgency to medical researchers around the world. Acupuncture has an ancient and well documented history for the treatment of mental illness. The study focuses on a scientific comparison between drug therapy and acupuncture therapy. 

A meta-analysis of eight clinical trials conducted between 2000 and 2014 demonstrates the efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of stable angina. (1) In all eight clinical trials, patients treated with acupuncture experienced a greater rate of angina relief than those in the control group treated with conventional drug therapies (90.1% vs 75.7%). (2) Additionally, the ECG (electrocardiogram, EKG) results of seven studies demonstrate the superiority of acupuncture over conventional drug therapies for the improvement of ST segment (flat portion of the ECG wave between S and T) ischemia. (3)


Angina Back Shu Bladder Meridians Points 


Angina pectoris is a symptom of transient myocardial ischemia and hypoxia. (4) It is characterized by temporary pain and a feeling of constriction in the chest, as well as substernal pain that may radiate to the neck, jaw, shoulder, back, arm and epigastrium. (5) The most common risk factor for angina pectoris is coronary artery disease (CAD). (6) Patients with angina are at increased risk for acute myocardial infarction; the prognosis depends on the severity of the CAD and the degree to which their heart function is impaired. Though incidence of angina pectoris differs between countries, it is estimated that between 4.9 – 12.5% of men and 5 – 9.2% of women will experience it each year. (7) 

Researchers (Zheng-tao, et al.) find acupuncture effective for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and conclude that it is a potentially valid and successful substitute for the CPAP machine. The findings indicate that acupuncture is a proven treatment option for sleep apnea patients looking for a cost-effective alternative to standard treatment or for those who find sleeping with the machine cumbersome and difficult to manage.


Sleep Apnea


Later in this article, we will review the following important discoveries: Acupuncture outperformed nCPAP (Nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines for increasing blood oxygenation as measured by AHI (Apnea-Hypopnea Index) and acupuncture outperformed controls as measured by additional indices (apnea index, hypopnea index, SaO2 levels). First, let’s take a look at sleep apnea pathophysiology and how standard care is used to alleviate it.

Long needle acupuncture, electroacupuncture and Xiaoxingnao acupuncture show positive treatment outcomes for both cervical spondylosis and cervical spondylotic radiculopathy.

Two recent research studies find acupuncture a highly effective and flexible method for the treatment of cervical spondylosis and cervical spondylotic radiculopathy (neck spinal and soft tissue degeneration causing nerve impingement and subsequent pain or numbness). One study from Xindu District Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine found long needle acupuncture to be highly effective for the treatment of cervical spondylotic radiculopathy. Another from Tianjin University of TCM determined that electroacupuncture treatment in combination with Xiaoxingnao acupuncture produces significant patient outcomes.


Neck Pain 


In the first study, researchers Xie et al. (Xindu District Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine) conducted a scientific investigation of long needle acupuncture compared with conventional acupuncture for the treatment of cervical spondylotic radiculopathy. The results demonstrate that long needle acupuncture produces superior patient outcomes. Let's take a look at the advanced procedures that produced the results. Please keep in mind that the following procedures are only appropriate for licensed acupuncturists trained in these expert techniques and procedures.

Acupuncture outperforms a benzodiazepine medication for the treatment of insomnia.

Researchers find acupuncture more effective for the relief of insomnia than estazolam, a benzodiazepine pharmaceutical drug. Using Pittsburgh sleep quality index (PSQI) scores as a basis of comparison, acupuncture outperformed estazolam for the improvement of “sleep quality, efficiency disturbance and daytime dysfunction.” The researchers note that the acupuncture protocol used to achieve the treatment results included a specialized order for inserting the acupuncture needles and that the “sequence of acupuncture points” plays an important role.




The investigation explored the efficacy of the Governor Vessel (GV) unblocking protocol developed by Prof. Gao Yu-chun. The researchers provide the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) basis for the protocol. The GV unblocking approach to care for the treatment of insomnia focuses on calming the mind by nourishing kidney water to “submerge liver yang and harmonize heart mind by stimulating the three Yuan-Primary points Shenmen (HT7), Taichong (LR3) and Taixi (KI3).” The protocol also focuses on harmonizing the spleen and stomach. According to TCM principles, ascending “turbid qi or insufficient qi and blood due to dysfunctions of the spleen and stomach may either cause or aggravate insomnia.” To address these concerns, the following acupoints were included:

Researchers conclude that acupuncture reduces pain and stiffness while restoring physical functioning for patients with knee osteoarthritis. Using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, the researchers made an important finding. Acupuncture successfully downregulated osteoarthritis related proinflammatory plasma levels of TNFα, IL-6, and apelin.




TNFα and IL-6 (interleukin 6) are major proinflammatory cytokines involved in osteoarthritis pathophysiology and are associated with radiographic osteoarthritis and knee cartilage loss. Elevated levels are associated with knee pain (Stannus et al.). The adipokine apelin is also correlated with inflammation, pain, and osteoarthritis.