Acupuncture for High Blood Pressure


2015-12-28 11:04

For the first time, researchers have scientifically shown that acupuncture (specifically, electroacupuncture) can reduce blood pressure among individuals with hypertension. For anyone looking for a drug-free way to manage this common health challenge, acupuncture for high blood pressure may be an option to consider.

The study involved the use of electroacupuncture, a form of acupuncture in which individuals receive low-intensity electrical pulses through ultra-thin needles that are inserted at specific sites the body. These sites are known as acupoints and correspond to precise locations along meridians which, according to traditional Chinese medicine, are energy pathways that transverse the body.

The breakthrough trial was conducted at the University of California-Irvine (UCI), where 65 adults with high blood pressure were recruited for the study. None of the participants were taking medication for their condition.

The volunteers were randomly assigned to one of two groups:

  • One group (33 individuals) received electroacupuncture at acupoints believed to reduce blood pressure; namely, the inner wrists and slightly below each knee
  • The other group (32; control) was treated with electroacupuncture at points along the lower leg and forearm

All of the volunteers received electroacupuncture once weekly for eight weeks, 30 minutes per session. The practitioners but not the subjects were aware which group was receiving treatment and which was the control.

Here’s what the researchers found:

  • 70 percent of individuals in the treatment group experienced a noticeable decline in blood pressure, averaging 6 to 8 mmHg for systolic and 4 mmHg for diastolic blood pressure
  • These improvements in blood pressure continued for six weeks after treatment ended
  • No significant changes in blood pressure were seen in the control group
  • Individuals in the treatment group also showed an average 41 percent decline in blood concentration of norepinephrine, a hormone that causes blood vessels to constrict and a rise in blood pressure
  • Levels of the enzyme renin declined 67 percent and the hormone aldosterone dropped 22 percent in the treatment group. Renin is released by the kidneys and helps control blood pressure while aldosterone regulates electrolyte levels, which also impacts blood pressure

Senior author and cardiologist John Longhurst, professor of medicine at UCI, has been researching acupuncture and high blood pressure for nearly a decade and explained in a Medical News Today article the significance of this new study. “Because electroacupuncture decreases both peak and average systolic blood pressure over 24 hours, this therapy may decrease the risk for stroke, peripheral artery disease, heart failure and myocardial infarction in hypertensive patients.”

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Sources
Li P et al. Long-lasting reduction of blood pressure by elecgroacupuncture in patients with hypertension: randomized controlled trial. Medical Acupuncture 2015 Aug 1; 27(4): 253-66
Medical News Today