Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture News and Research


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. 

Researchers demonstrate excellent clinical results using acupuncture for the treatment of lumbar disc herniations.

Researchers find acupuncture safe and effective for the treatment of lumbar disc herniations across multiple independent clinical trials. A meta-analysis of investigations reveals that Jiaji acupoints yield significant positive patient outcomes when combined with manual and electroacupuncture techniques. Distal and abdominal acupuncture also demonstrated significant positive patient outcomes. This research review covers rare acupuncture points demonstrating clinical efficacy and details a powerful manual acupuncture technique proven effective for relief of lumbar disc herniation symptoms. We’ll start with primary research by Song et al. and then take a close look at a meta-analysis by Wang et al., including specific approaches to clinical care proven to deliver excellent results.


Lumbar Discs 


Researchers find both electroacupuncture and manual acupuncture effective for the treatment of lumbar disc herniations. Song et al. conducted a clinical trial at the Xixiang People’s Hospital in Guangdong, China. Electroacupuncture and manual acupuncture significantly reduced patients’ pain levels. Outstanding positive patient outcomes were recorded for the electroacupuncture treatment group. Patients with lumbar disc herniations receiving electroacupuncture had a 91.8% total treatment effective rate. Improvements included pain reductions, increases in range of motion, and improved straight leg lift testing. 

Music electroacupuncture benefits the brain and demonstrates efficaciousness in the treatment of depression.

Researchers conclude that music electroacupuncture causes improved behavioral changes and benefits to neuronal structures in the hippocampus. In a laboratory experiment on depressive rats, music electroacupuncture outperforms fluoxetine (trade name Prozac) for regulating monoamine neurotransmitter levels. Based on the findings, the researchers (Cao et al.) conclude that music electroacupuncture demonstrates efficaciousness for the treatment of depression.


 Electroacupuncture on a woman's back


In a separate investigation (Tang et al.), two types of acupuncture are found to successfully regulate behavioral changes and β-amyloid protein levels in a laboratory experiment. Based on the findings, the researchers note that music electroacupuncture and standard pulsed electroacupuncture may assist in the prevention of Alzheimer Disease. In a controlled experiment, laboratory rats receiving electroacupuncture had decreased latency times, improved swimming distances, and significant reductions of β-amyloid protein levels. β-amyloid (Aβ) proteins are the main constituents of amyloid plaques occurring in Alzheimer disease patients’ brains. The researchers note that music electroacupuncture and standard electroacupuncture improved “learning and memorizing abilities.” Notably, music electroacupuncture outperformed standard electroacupuncture. 

Researchers document that acupuncture produces higher pregnancy rates than fertility medications for women with hyperprolactinemia (HPL).

Acupuncture produces a higher rate of pregnancies than fertility medications with significantly less adverse effects. In a controlled clinical trial, researchers document that acupuncture outperforms bromocriptine and bromocriptine plus clomiphene for the treatment of infertility for women with hyperprolactinemia (HPL). Acupuncture produced a 43.3% pregnancy rate whereas fertility medications produced 20% pregnancy rate.


Image of a pregnant woman.  


One important mechanism responsible for the fertility treatment success with acupuncture is hormonal regulation. Acupuncture more rapidly normalized levels of prolactin than fertility medications. In hyperprolactinemia, elevated levels of prolactin (PRL) hormone causes infertility by inhibiting gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) production. GnRH is responsible for stimulating gonadotropins (Gn), luteinising hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) production. As a result, hyperprolactinemia affects the overall function of the ovaries, ovulation, and corpus luteum formation because Gn, LH, and FSH play an important biological role in reproductive health.

Olympians use cupping during training and research supports its use.


 cupping neck re


Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps has attracted a great deal of attention for his use of cupping therapy. Phelps notes that he receives cupping before swimming meets, especially for soreness. Other Olympians including Alex Naddour, Natalie Coughlin, and Pavel Sankovich published photos of their cupping marks on social media. USA gymnast Alexander Naddour notes that cupping is “the secret” that maintains his health. Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin also employs cupping as part of her physical training regimen. 

Researchers find acupuncture beneficial for diabetic glucose level regulation and for the relief of diabetic gastrointestinal disorders.

Acupuncture alleviates diabetes symptoms. Researchers in two separate studies find acupuncture effective for the relief of diabetes. In one study, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine researchers find acupuncture combined with moxibustion effective for the relief of a broad variety of diabetes related conditions.


Guan Yuan, CV4 Insertion 


In a second study, researchers conclude that acupuncture effectively reduces or eliminates diabetic gastroparesis. This condition, also referred to as delayed gastric emptying, involves pathologically slow movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine. This is caused by high glucose levels in diabetics that leads to vagus nerve damage, which leads to the inability of the nerve to properly regulate stomach muscles. Acupuncture successfully restores digestive functionality wherein gastroparesis is abated. Importantly, a six month follow-up found acupuncture significantly more effective than two different types of pharmaceutical medications for the treatment of diabetic gastroparesis.