(Research) Acupuncture for High Blood Pressure

Acupuncture treatment for high blood pressure

Hypertension, also known as the “silent killer”, is known to be an independent primary or contributing cause of premature death, as well as a cause for cardiological problems, stroke, vascular disease and kidney failure.

For those unfamiliar with the numbers, about a third of the population in North America and Europe suffers from hypertension, and as of 2009, U.S. spending on blood pressure-lowering drugs, indirectly or directly, was estimated at about $ 73.4 billion a year.

How Acupuncture treatment can reduce high blood pressure and is it an effective treatment?

The usual way to treat and lower blood pressure is a combination of medication along with adjustments of the patient to a healthy lifestyle, which in this case includes exercise, weight loss, nutrition and the like. However, many of those who suffer from high blood pressure describe difficulty with persistence to these adjustments as well as with changing their habits, and they complain that the drug treatment is expensive and involves unpleasant side effects. In light of all this, we see that an increasing number of patients turn to acupuncture as a treatment to reduce blood pressure.

Due to the great interest in this subject, several studies have been done which have examined the effectiveness of acupuncture on reducing blood pressure. One of these studies (1), was a single-blind randomized trial that examined the therapeutic potential of acupuncture. The study was conducted with the collaboration of three institutions: the University of Nanjing (Peopleโ€™s Republic of China), a German district hospital (Klinikum Ottobeuren) and a university clinic in Germany (Med Klinik 2, Universitatsklinikum, Erlangen).

The trial subjects recruited were in the age range of 45-75, lived in a western environment and suffered from mild to moderate hypertension (systolic blood pressure in the range of 140-179 mm Hg, and diastolic blood pressure in the range of 90-109 mm Hg). As for the acupuncture therapists, those selected for the trial were all expert acupuncturists with at least five years of clinical experience.

The study hypothesized that acupuncture would reduce the levels of blood pressure in subjects with mild to moderate hypertension, who did not have concomitant complications, and who were taking medications to lower blood pressure on a regular basis for at least two months or who were not being treated with medication at all.

For the purpose of the study, several parameters were examined, the main ones being the mean (average) systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels during the day, the mean blood pressure at night and the ambulatory mean (over a 24-hour period).

The acupuncture was performed over six weeks, and the various indices were tested at three checkpoints throughout the experiment: the first check was performed three days after the end of the treatments, the second three months later and the last six months after the end of the treatments.

Subjects were divided into two groups:

The first group consisted of 83 subjects who received active acupuncture at three variable acupuncture points out of a pool of 19 possible points. The acupuncture points were real and relevant for lowering blood pressure according to the diagnosis of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Of the 83 subjects, 72 received acupuncture treatments for all six weeks, and 67 subjects remained in the trial until the last checkpoint that took place after six months.

The second group consisted of 77 subjects who received acupuncture at three fixed points that were not real or relevant acupuncture points for lowering blood pressure according to Chinese Medicine. Of the sham acupuncture group, 68 subjects were treated for all six weeks, and 66 of them remained until the last checkpoint.

Both groups received 22 acupuncture treatments over the six weeks of treatment, with each treatment lasting 30 minutes. In the first two weeks the subjects were treated 5 times a week, and in the additional four weeks, they were treated 3 times a week. In each treatment, 3 needles were inserted bilaterally (on both sides of the body) at the selected acupuncture points.

Experiment results

At the first checkpoint, three days after the six-week acupuncture, it was found that the active acupuncture significantly reduced the mean (average) systolic and diastolic blood pressure in the first group. In the second group (the sham treatment), no significant differences were found in the indices, and even a small increase was found in some of the subjects.

In the first group, the mean blood pressure during the day decreased by 6.5 mm mercury systolic and 3.8 mm mercury diastolic, and the ambulatory mean (over 24 hours) decreased by 5.4 mm mercury systolic and 3.0 mm mercury diastolic.

Comparing the groups, significant differences were found in almost all indices (ambulatory, systolic and diastolic, daily systolic and diastolic, and nocturnal systolic). The most significant difference was in systolic blood pressure during the day, with a difference of 7.3 mm Hg between the groups. The differences in systolic and diastolic blood pressure over a time period of 24 hours were 6.4 mm Hg and 3.7 mm Hg, respectively. In contrast, the difference in diastolic blood pressure during the night was negligible.

The results of the decrease in blood pressure in the group that received real acupuncture disappeared and did not last in the measurements made after a period of three months and after a period of six months from the end of the series of treatments. Also, in the comparison between the groups, no significant differences were found in the second and third measurement.

Summary

Acupuncture has been found to be a therapeutic tool which is safe, effective and devoid of side effects, for the lowering blood pressure in patients with mild to moderate hypertension, aged 45-75, who, besides the blood pressure condition, are generally healthy.

In conclusion, it should be noted that despite the various studies conducted to date, such as the study described above, the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for reducing hypertension is still controversial.

Source:

(Flachskampf FA1, Gallasch J, Gefeller O, Gan J, Mao J, Pfahlberg AB, Wortmann A, Klinghammer L, Pflederer W, Daniel WG.) Year: 2007

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17548730

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