Patients with hypertension treated with acupuncture can experience drops in blood pressure that last up to a month and a half, according to a US study.
Researchers from the University of California in Irvine said their study was the first to “scientifically confirm” that the ancient Chinese practice was beneficial in treating mild to moderate hypertension.
“By using Western scientific rigor to validate an ancient Eastern therapy, we feel we have integrated Chinese and Western medicine”
They said it indicated that regular use could help people control their blood pressure and lessen their risk of stroke and heart disease.
Researchers conducted tests on 65 hypertensive patients who were not receiving any hypertension medication.
Separated randomly into two groups, the subjects were treated with electro-acupuncture – a form of the practice that employs low-intensity electrical stimulation – at different “acupoints” on the body.
One group received electro-acupuncture on both sides of the inner wrists and slightly below each knee, while the other group received it along the forearm and lower leg.
In the first group receiving electro-acupuncture on the inner wrists and below each knee, the researchers found a noticeable drop in blood pressure rates in 70% of participants – an average of 6-8mmHg for systolic blood pressure and 4mmHg for diastolic blood pressure.
These improvements persisted for a month and a half, said the researchers.
However, no consequential blood pressure changes were found in the group of 32 who received electro-acupuncture at other acupoints along the forearm and lower leg.
Although the blood pressure reductions in the first cohort were relatively small – mostly in the 4-13mmHg range – the researchers said they were clinically meaningful and claimed the technique could be especially useful in treating systolic hypertension in patients over 60.
Study author Dr John Longhurst said: “This clinical study is the culmination of more than a decade of bench research in this area.”
“By using Western scientific rigor to validate an ancient Eastern therapy, we feel we have integrated Chinese and Western medicine,” he said.
He added: “Because electro-acupuncture 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.”
The study results have been published in the journal Medical Acupuncture.