Impact of acupuncture treatment on the lumbar surgery rate for low back pain in Korea: A nationwide matched retrospective cohort study
Low back pain (LBP) is a globally prevalent disorder with high social significance. Invasive surgical procedures are increasingly being used to treat LBP despite a lack of solid evidence supporting their long-term benefits. This nationwide retrospective cohort study investigated the association between acupuncture treatment and lumbar surgery rate in patients with LBP.
Using the National Health Insurance Service Sample Cohort Database for 2002–2013, we identified newly diagnosed LBP patients in Korea between 2004 and 2010 and divided them into an acupuncture group and control group according to whether or not they received acupuncture. Propensity scores based on age, sex, income, and Charlson Comorbidity Index were matched between the two study groups. The lumbar surgery rate in the two years following the first visit (control group) or the first acupuncture session (acupuncture group) was calculated. In addition to the overall analysis, stratified analyses were also conducted in different age, sex, and income strata. Sensitivity analyses were further performed using varying definitions of acupuncture treatment.
After matching, 130,089 subjects were included in each study group. The lumbar surgery rate was significantly lower in the acupuncture group than in the control group (hazard ratio [HR] 0.633, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.576–0.696). Decrease in HR was consistently observed in the acupuncture group for all age strata, except for patients in their 20s (HR 1.031, 95% CI 0.804–1.323). HR for lumbar surgery tended to be further reduced in the older age groups upon acupuncture treatment, with no apparent sex-related differences. Lowered HR in the acupuncture group was continuously observed across all income groups; the higher income group showed a tendency of greater decrease. Sensitivity analyses showed that the number of acupuncture sessions had no major impact on the likelihood of lumbar surgery, but also that more intensive acupuncture treatment was associated with further reduction in lumbar surgery rates.
The present results found that administration of acupuncture treatment is associated with lower lumbar surgery rates for LBP patients in Korea. Prospective studies are warranted in the future to further investigate the effect of acupuncture treatment on lumbar surgery incidence.
To download the full PDF study click here.
Citation: Koh, W., Kang, K., Lee, Y. J., Kim, M. R., Shin, J. S., Lee, J., … & Ha, I. H. (2018). Impact of acupuncture treatment on the lumbar surgery rate for low back pain in Korea: A nationwide matched retrospective cohort study. PloS one, 13(6), e0199042.
Researchers find acupuncture effective for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a local entrapment neuropathy affecting the wrist and hand that causes pain, numbness, and dysfunction. The research team documents acupuncture’s beneficial influence on the morphology of the median nerve and improvement of clinical symptoms.
According to researchers conducting the investigation, “while previous studies investigated the effect of acupuncture on clinical symptoms and electromyographic studies, to the best of our knowledge, its effect on median nerve morphology was not investigated before.”  This study demonstrates that acupuncture influences morphology of the median nerve, which opens up a host of possible future studies that may build upon this foundation of knowledge.
Median nerve compression in the carpal tunnel region of the wrist results in pain, numbness, and tingling in the fingers or hand, as well as possible weakness and atrophy of the hand muscles innervated by the median nerve.  More prevalent among women, it is correlated with overuse, diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, and pregnancy. 
Diagnostically and prognostically, musculoskeletal ultrasound imaging has been growing in popularity for monitoring this condition because of its ease and cost effectiveness. Musculoskeletal ultrasound shows the cross-sectional area (CSA) in the wrist level of the median nerve and this study documents correlations between median nerve cross-sectional areas and electrophysiological changes within the CTS affected limb.
A total of 27 female patients (45 limbs) with CTS were diagnosed with electromyographic tests for the purposes of this investigation. The patients were similar in age, BMI (body mass index), duration of disease, and severity of CTS. Exclusionary criteria were the following: radicular pain, polyneuropathy, radial or ulnar nerve diseases, severe CTS, trauma history, prior hand surgery.
In patients with bilateral CTS, both extremities were included in the same group. All patients were informed about the study and provided consent. They were randomly divided into two groups (acupuncture and control). The mean duration of the disease was 18.3 months and 19.3 months respectively. Both groups used night wrist splints for CTS for 4 weeks, while only the acupuncture group received acupuncture treatments. The following nine acupoints were selected for the study:
- Daling (PC7)
- Ximen (PC4)
- Neiguan (PC6)
- Laogong (PC8)
- Qingling (HT2)
- Shenmen (HT7)
- Shaofu (HT8)
- Taiyuan (LU9)
- Quchi (LI11)
The median nerve cross-sectional area was measured at the proximal carpal tunnel with musculoskeletal ultrasound, with the scaphoid and pisiform bones used as bony landmarks for the proximal tunnel where the cross section was measured.  Needles of size 0.25 × 25 mm were inserted into the points and were retained for 25 minutes per acupuncture session. Treatments were conducted two or three days per week for four weeks, totaling ten sessions.
The median nerve cross-sectional area was measured by using musculoskeletal ultrasound on the patients while seated and positioned similarly (elbow at 90 degree flexion with the forearm in supination position). Cross-sectional areas of size 9 mm or greater had previously been determined as a possible diagnostic measure for CTS. 
Pain severity, hand function, and musculoskeletal ultrasound measurements were taken before and after treatments. The visual analog scale (VAS: 0–10 cm) measured pain severity. The Duruoz Hand Index (DHI) and Quick Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) scores were used to assess hand functions and disability. All electrophysiological tests were performed by using a Nihon Cohden Neuropack machine.
Compound muscle action potential (CMAP: normal >6.8 mV) measured the reaction of the abductor pollicis brevis muscle to stimulation at the wrist and elbow. Sensory nerve action potential (SNAP: normal >10 uV) measured the reaction of wrist stimulation to signals traveling in the opposite direction of normal signals in the nerve fiber (antidromic) of the second finger. Motor distal latency (normal <3.8 ms), sensory nerve conduction velocity (SNCV: normal >40.4 m/sec), and motor nerve conduction velocity (M-NCV: normal >49.4 m/sec) were also measured before and after treatment.
Acupuncture group positive outcomes proved significant. The median nerve cross-sectional area decreased from 11.6 to 10.6 mm, motor distal latency decreased from 4.3 to 4.1 ms, and SNAP increased from 16.7 to17.6 uV. Also in the acupuncture group, VAS decreased from 9 to 4.8, CMAP increased from 12.9 to 14.8 mV, DHI decreased from 47 to 37, Quick DASH decreased from 67.2 to 56.8, S-NCV increased from 31 to 33.2 m/sec, and motor nerve velocity increased from 57.4 to 59 m/sec.
The improvement within the acupuncture group when comparing baseline values with the results highlights the success of acupuncture in decreasing clinical symptoms of CTS. It also highlights its ability to transform median nerve morphology such that acupuncture can reduce the cross-sectional area. The results within the control group were not as significant as the acupuncture group, highlighting the efficacy of acupuncture in treating neuropathic disorders compared with night splint monotherapy.
The researchers cited several investigations showing acupuncture’s positive influence on CTS. Recent studies have used magnetic resonance imaging to show how acupuncture may alter brain activity and the limbic system of CTS patients. [6,7,8] Acupuncture produces anti-inflammatory effects in the median nerve within the carpal tunnel, as well as effects that can be compared to ibuprofen, night splints, and oral or injected steroids. [9,10,11]
Acupuncture generates beneficial morphological changes in the median nerve of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome and reduces or eliminates symptoms. Based on the scientific evidence, acupuncture is a reasonable treatment option. Consult with a local licensed acupuncturist to learn more.
1 Ural, Fatma Gülçin, and Gökhan Tuna Öztürk. “The acupuncture effect on median nerve morphology in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome: an ultrasonographic study.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2017 (2017).
2. S. Tanaka, D. K. Wild, P. J. Seligman, V. Behrens, L. Cameron, and V. Putz-Anderson, “The US [musculoskeletal ultrasound] prevalence of self-reported carpal tunnel syndrome: 1988 national health interview survey data,”American Journal of Public Health, vol. 84, no. 11, pp. 1846– 1848, 1994.
3. R. J. Spinner, J. W. Bachman, and P. C. Amadio, “The many faces of carpal tunnel syndrome,” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, vol. 64, no. 7, pp. 829–836, 1989.
4. Ural, Fatma Gülçin, and Gökhan Tuna Öztürk. “The acupuncture effect on median nerve morphology in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome: an ultrasonographic study.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2017 (2017).
5. J. T. Mhoon, V. C. Juel, and L. D. Hobson-Webb, “Median nerve ultrasound as a screening tool in carpal tunnel syndrome: correlation of cross-sectional area measures with electrodiagnostic abnormality,” Muscle and Nerve, vol. 46, no. 6, pp. 871–878, 2012.
6. A. U. Asghar, G. Green, M. F. Lythgoe, G. Lewith, and H. MacPherson, “Acupuncture needling sensation: the neural correlates of deqi using fMRI,” Brain Research, vol. 1315, pp. 111–118, 2010.
7. V. Napadow, J. Liu, M. Li et al., “Somatosensory cortical plasticity in carpal tunnel syndrome treated by acupuncture,” Human Brain Mapping, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 159–171, 2007.
8. V. Napadow, N. Kettner, J. Liu et al., “Hypothalamus and amygdala response to acupuncture stimuli in carpal tunnel syndrome,” Pain, vol. 130, no. 3, pp. 254–266, 2007.
9. M. Hadianfard, E. Bazrafshan, H. Momeninejad, and N. Jahani, “Efficacies of acupuncture and anti-inflammatory treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome,” Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, vol. 8, no. 5, pp. 229–235, 2015.
10. Ho, Chien-Yi, Hsiu-Chen Lin, Yu-Chen Lee, Li-Wei Chou, Ta-Wei Kuo, Heng-Wei Chang, Yueh-Sheng Chen, and Sui-Foon Lo. “Clinical effectiveness of acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome.” The American journal of Chinese medicine 42, no. 02 (2014): 303-314.
11. Yang, Chun-Pai, Nai-Hwei Wang, Tsai-Chung Li, Ching-Liang Hsieh, Hen-Hong Chang, Kai-Lin Hwang, Wang-Sheng Ko, and Ming-Hong Chang. “A randomized clinical trial of acupuncture versus oral steroids for carpal tunnel syndrome: a long-term follow-up.” The Journal of Pain 12, no. 2 (2011): 272-279.
Acupuncture helps to heal peptic ulcers and prevents relapses. Researchers conclude that acupuncture increases the total effective rate of drug therapy for the treatment of peptic ulcers. Researchers from the Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhongnan University (Hunan, China) combined acupuncture with standard drug therapy. Patients receiving both drug therapy and acupuncture in a combined treatment protocol had superior patient outcomes compared with patients receiving only drug therapy. Furthermore, acupuncture increases the H. pylori-negative conversion rate and decreases the recurrence rate of drug therapy.  In a significant finding, acupuncture added to usual care reduces the relapse rate from 41.7% to 15.4%.
Two groups were compared. In one group, patients received bismuth subnitrate (known by the trade name Veytalo) tablets and amoxicillin as a means to control H. pylori infection. In the second group, bismuth subnitrate and amoxicillin were combined with acupuncture therapy. The drug control group achieve an 82.2% total effective rate. The acupuncture treatment group achieve a 95.6% total effective rate. In addition, the drug control group had a 71.1% H. pylori-negative conversion rate. The acupuncture treatment group had an 86.7% H. pylori-negative conversion rate (i.e., 86.7% of patients were no longer positive for the presence of Helicobacter pylori).
In a 12-month follow-up examination, patients receiving only drug therapy had a 41.7% recurrence rate of peptic ulcers. Patients receiving drug therapy plus acupuncture had a 15.4% recurrence rate. The researchers conclude that adding acupuncture to a bismuth subnitrate plus amoxicillin treatment regimen consolidates the treatment effects and prevents possible recurrence and necessitation for drug therapy.
Chinese Medicine Theory
Peptic ulcers are a common health problem that occur in the stomach (gastric ulcers) or the upper part of the small intestine, typically manifesting in duodenal ulcers.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), peptic ulcers are in the scope of stomach duct pain (Wei Wan Tong), acid swallowing (Tun Suan), and blood ejection (Tu Xue). TCM principles specify that peptic ulcers are often due to dysfunction of the stomach, spleen, and liver. TCM principles also notate that spleen and stomach weakness is the underlying root cause of the disease. In the Incisive Light on the Source of Miscellaneous Disease (Za Bing Yuan Liu Xi Zhu), it is written that “Stomach disease is often due to pathogenic factors invading the stomach. When there is harmonious flow of abundant qi and blood, the stomach becomes so strong that pathogenic factors cannot affect it; if not, the stomach becomes so weak that pathogenic factors can easily affect it and cause stomach diseases.” The therapeutic treatment principles are to fortify the spleen, harmonize the stomach, and rectify qi to relieve pain.
The researchers (Li et al.) used the following study design. A total of 90 human patients that were diagnosed with peptic ulcers were treated and evaluated in this study. Patients were randomly divided into an acupuncture therapy treatment group and a drug monotherapy control group, with 45 patients in each group. For the control group patients, bismuth subnitrate tablets and amoxicillin were administered. The combination of bismuth subnitrate with antibiotics has been used to treat Helicobacter pylori infections in clinical settings and was therefore chosen as the standard of usual care. The acupuncture therapy treatment group received acupuncture sessions in addition to the identical drug therapy administered to the drug control group.
Prior to beginning the study, both groups were comprised of equivalent demographic constituents. The acupuncture treatment group was comprised of 26 males and 19 females. The average age in the acupuncture group was 41.65 (±1.35) years. The average course of disease in the treatment group was 5.5 years. The drug control group was comprised of 28 males and 17 females. The average age in the drug control group was 40.18 (±0.35) years. The average total course of the disease in the drug control group was 5.8 years. For both groups, there were no significant differences in gender, age, and course of disease prior to beginning the investigation.
Drug and Acupuncture Treatment
For the drug control group, patients received 110 mg doses of bismuth subnitrate tablets and 250 mg of amoxicillin (orally administered, 4 times each day). Every 7 days of tablet consumption consisted of one treatment course. A total of 2 courses were administered. The acupuncture group received a combination of acupuncture and drug therapy. The needle retention time was 10 – 30 minutes. Acupuncture was administered once per day, 5 days per week, followed by a 2-day break. Each treatment course consisted of 2 weeks of acupuncture treatments. All patients received 2 treatment courses in total. A total of 2 – 3 primary acupoints were selected from the following list:
- BL20 (Pishu)
- BL21 (Weishu)
- CV12 (Zhongwan)
- ST36 (Zusanli)
- PC6 (Neiguan)
Additional acupoints were selected on individual symptomatic presentations. The acupoint selection was based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory of differential diagnosis by pattern differentiation. For disturbed qi dynamics, the following acupoints were added:
- LV14 (Qimen)
- LV2 (Xingjian)
- BL18 (Ganshu)
For qi and blood stagnation, the following acupoints were added:
- BL17 (Geshu)
- SP6 (Sanyinjiao)
For stomach yin deficiency, the following acupoints were added:
- SP6 (Sanyinjiao)
- KI3 (Taixi)
For a cold and deficient stomach and spleen, the following acupoints were added:
- CV4 (Guanyuan)
- CV6 (Qihai)
Neiguan (PC6) is located 2 cun superior to the transverse crease of the wrist. This acupoint was selected because it is located on the pericardium meridian and is one of the confluent points of eight extra meridians, which makes it not only indicated for heart and chest diseases, but also spleen and stomach dysfunction. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the heart (fire) is the mother of spleen (earth). Therefore, needling Neiguan is beneficial to the spleen. This is a basic five element implementation of the mother nourishes child principle; in this case, stimulating the pericardium meridian with the acupoint PC6 (Neiguan) supports the spleen and stomach.
Zusanli (ST36) is located below the knee. This acupoint is the He-Sea point of the stomach meridian. Zhongwan (CV12) is the Front-Mu point of the stomach meridian. Needling these two points regulates the spleen and stomach, tonifies qi and blood, and strengthens areas of weakness. Pishu (BL20) and Weishu (BL21) are the Back-Shu points of the spleen meridian and stomach meridians respectively. In TCM, Back-Shu points are the gathering places for the essence of their corresponding Zang-Fu organs. Needling Pishu and Weishu tonifies the spleen and stomach.
Modern research confirms that Zusanli and Zhongwan benefit gastrointestinal function. For example, researchers from the Hubei University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Chen et al.) tested Zusanli in a controlled experiment and confirm that it is effective for benefiting the stomach.  In the experiment, rats had improved stomach acid levels and gastrointestinal motility. In an independent research, Luo et al note, “Needling Zusanli and Zhongwan has a bidirectional regulation on stomach acid levels and gastric pepsin levels.” They add that “Needling these points can stimulate the vagus nerve and inhibit acid secretion in people who develop gastric ulcers.”  Given the historical TCM indications and proven modern applications of Zusanli (ST36) and Zhongwan (CV12), Li et al. combined both acupoints into an acupuncture treatment protocol to determine their effects on peptic ulcers.
The results indicate that acupuncture combined with conventional drug therapy into an integrated treatment protocol is more effective than bismuth subnitrate plus amoxicillin as a standalone therapy. Li et al. conclude that acupuncture is safe and effective for the alleviation of peptic ulcers.
 Li YM, Wu Q. Clinical Observation on 45 Cases of Peptic Ulcer Treated with Acupuncture [J]. Guiding Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy, 2008(06):84-85.
 Chen XH, Liu YX, Wang H. Comparative Study on the Effect of Acupuncture and Moxibustion “Zusanli and Guanyuan” on Immune Function of Rats with Yang Deficiency [J]. Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion, 1999, 18(9): 555.
 Luo YF. Analysis of the Saying which goes “Zusanli is indicated for stomach diseases” [J]. Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion, 1997, 16 (6): 38.
Researchers find acupuncture effective for the treatment of obesity. Results were obtained by implementing a protocolized body acupuncture point prescription without a diet or exercise program.  In a five week clinical trial, patients receiving acupuncture achieved a 2.9 kg mean weight loss and the decrease in mean BMI (body mass index) was 1.43. The laboratory findings, including serum levels of insulin, leptin, ghrelin, and cholecystokinin are consistent with the results. The controlled study documents that sham acupuncture does not produce significant positive patient outcomes, only true acupuncture achieves clinical results. Based on the evidence, the hospital researchers conclude that acupuncture treatment regulates weight for patients with obesity.
Obesity is an increasingly prevalent chronic condition that is associated with serious morbidity and mortality.  The risk of hypertension, heart disease, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes mellitus, cerebrovascular disease, gallbladder disease, and some types of cancer are higher for overweight (BMI>25) and obese (BMI>30) individuals.  Weight control treatments include diet therapy, behavioral treatment, pharmacotherapy, surgical procedures, and acupuncture. The downside to anti-obesity medications and surgery is the potential for iatrogenic illness.  In addition, a World Health Organization Report on acupuncture states that acupuncture demonstrates a therapeutic effect for the treatment of obesity. 
Laboratory data supports the conclusions of the researchers in this controlled clinical trial. After 5 weeks of acupuncture treatment, mean serum insulin and leptin levels decreased by 6.87 μIU/ml (43%) and 3.32 ng/ml (25%) respectively. No significant change was seen in these variables after sham treatment. Differences between the two study groups in these parameters were documented. The mean serum insulin and leptin levels in the acupuncture group were lower than in the sham acupuncture group by 8.27 μIU/ml and 6.17 ng/ml respectively. The true acupuncture group also demonstrated significant improvements in mean plasma ghrelin and CCK levels. The researchers note, “acupuncture treatment decreased insulin and leptin levels and induced weight loss, together with a decrease in BMI compared with sham acupuncture.”
Group Selection Process
The subject selection process was as follows. An acupuncture study was announced in a university hospital (Etlik Zubeyde Hanim Obstetrics and Gynecology Training and Research Hospital) for employees and people attending routine wellness examinations. Female obese volunteers who wanted to be involved in this study underwent the selection process and 40 of these with BMI>30 were accepted after routine medical examinations. Subjects selected for inclusion had normal physical examination findings and did not have hypertension, diabetes, nephropathy, heart failure, and were not receiving any medications.
The statistical breakdown for each randomized group was as follows. The mean age of participants was 34.6 ±6.3 years for the sham acupuncture group and 36.8 ±7.8 years for the acupuncture group. Pre-sham and pre-acupuncture groups showed no significant differences in weight, BMI, serum insulin and leptin levels. All participants successfully completed specified treatments without any dropouts or unintended outcomes.
True vs. Sham Acupuncture
The acupuncture group received traditional Chinese type general body acupuncture at the follow acupoints bilaterally:
- LI4 (Hegu)
- HT7 (Shenmen)
- ST36 (Zusanli)
- ST44 (Neiting)
- SP6 (Sanyinjiao)
Treatment commenced with patients in a supine position. After disinfection of the acupoint sites, a disposable stainless steel needle (25 mm length, 0.25 mm diameter, Kingli brand) was inserted into each acupoint, reaching a depth of 5–10 mm. Twisting, lifting, and thrusting manual acupuncture techniques were applied to elicit deqi.
Patients in the other group were treated with sham acupuncture. The needles were not inserted but were applied under a tape at the same points. Both groups received two sessions per week for a total of 10 sessions. Duration of each session was 20 minutes. Both treatments were performed by a certified acupuncturist. All patients were asked not to follow dietary treatments, not to undergo heavy physical exercise, and not to take supplementary medications.
Sun et al. conclude that acupuncture combined with auricular acupressure achieves an average weight loss of 5.04 kg after three months of treatment, The sample size was 110 obese female patients.  One study group received body acupuncture plus auricular acupressure (every 3–5 days for 3 months) and another received Capsulae Olei Oenothera Erythrosepalae, a weight control substance. Body weight of the acupuncture group reduced by an average 5.04 kg while that of the control group by an average of 2.08 kg. The differences between the two groups and between values of the same group before and after treatment were statistically significant. The primary body acupoints used in the study were the following:
- ST25 (Tianshu)
- SP6 (Sanyinjiao)
- P6 (Neiguan)
- ST40 (Fenglong)
- ST36 (Zusanli)
Rapid needle insertion was performed. Twisting, lifting, and thrusting manual acupuncture techniques were applied to elicit deqi. After the arrival of deqi, the needle retention time was 15 minutes. The needling was administered every 3–5 days, 30 days as one course of treatment, for a total of three courses. For auricular acupressure, the researchers used the following ear acupoints:
A grain of Vaccariae seed was affixed to each otoacupoint with a 5×5 mm piece of adhesive tape. The two auricles were used in alternation, and the patients were advised to apply digital pressure on the seed pellets three times daily at home, every 3 – 5 days, for a total of 3 months. The study was a single-blinded, randomized investigation comparing acupuncture and auricular acupressure with a weight control substance. The researchers conclude, “Acupuncture and auricular acupressure produced superior patient outcomes for obese patients including decreasing body weight, appetite, blood triple cholesterol (TC), and triglycerides (TG).”
Acupuncture demonstrates clinical efficacy for the treatment of obesity in two controlled investigations. Based on the data, additional research is warranted. Larger sample sizes will help to confirm these preliminary findings.
Common to both studies reviewed in this article are acupoints SP6 (Sanyinjiao) and ST36 (Zusanli). According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles, both acupoints are indicated for the treatment of digestion related disorders and stimulate the body’s transforming and transporting functions of the digestive system. In this respect, these acupoints are choices consistent with the goals of the research.
 Güçel F, Bahar B, Demirtas C, Mit S, Cevik C. Influence of acupuncture on leptin, ghrelin, insulin and cholecystokinin in obese women: a randomised, sham-controlled preliminary trial. Acupunct Med. 2012 Sep;30(3):203-7.
 Lehnert T, et al. Health burden and costs of obesity and overweight in Germany: an update. Eur J Health Econ. 2015;16(9):957–67.
 Carnethon MR. Diabetes mellitus in the absence of obesity: a risky condition. Circulation. 2014;130(24):2131–2.
 Ingrid Z, et al. The duodenal–jejunal bypass liner for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus and/or obesity: a systematic review. Obes Surg. 2014; 24: 310–23.
 Sun Q, Xu Y. Simple obesity and obesity hyperlipemia treated with otoacupoint pellet pressure and body acupuncture. J Tradit Chin Med 1993;13:22–6.
from HealthCMi 7/7/18
Acupuncture is an effective treatment modality for the alleviation of Parkinson’s disease. Zhejiang University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Hangzhou, China) researchers conducted a study comparing the effects of drug therapy as a standalone procedure with acupuncture plus drug therapy in an integrated treatment protocol. Based on the data, the researchers conclude that acupuncture plus antiparkinsonian drug therapy is significantly more effective than using only antiparkinsonian drug therapy. 
Two groups were compared. In one group, Parkinson’s disease patients received only levodopa-benserazide as a means to alleviate symptoms. In the second group, levodopa-benserazide was combined with acupuncture therapy. The acupuncture plus drug therapy group had a total effective rate of 89.4% after four courses of treatment, whereas the drug therapy only group had a 52.6% total effective rate for the management of Parkinson’s disease.
The results indicate that acupuncture is an important treatment option for patients receiving benderizine-levodopa for the purposes of Parkinson’s disease treatment. Levodopa-benserazide is a medication containing two ingredients: levodopa and benserazide. Levodopa is a precursor to dopamine, the latter of which is needed in the brain of Parkinson’s disease patients. Benserazide prevents the conversion of levodopa to dopamine prior to reaching the brain and reduces some of levodopa’s adverse effects. This combination is used to reduce symptoms for patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Multiple subjective and objective instruments were used to measure patient outcomes before and after treatment. First, the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), which is the most widely used clinical rating scale for Parkinson’s disease, was used to record symptomatic improvement at several data points: before treatment, after two treatment courses, after four treatment courses. Second, the superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity and lipid peroxidation levels in plasma and red blood cells were recorded. Independent studies have proven that oxidative stress plays an important role in the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients, which is characterized by decreased SOD activity and increased lipid peroxidation. 
After four treatment courses, the scores in the acupuncture plus drug group were significantly improved (i.e., lower) than scores before treatment and for those in the drug control group (P<0.05). After four treatment courses, the SOD activity was significantly higher (i.e., improved) in the acupuncture plus drug group and were also better than scores in the drug control group (P<0.05). The lipid peroxidation levels in the acupuncture plus drug group were significantly lower (i.e., improved) than scores before treatment and were also better than scores in the drug control group.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common progressive neurodegenerative disorder.  PD is characterized by both motor and non-motor symptoms, such as bradykinesia, resting tremors, and muscle rigidity (which occur due to dopamine deficiency).  Diagnostically, Parkinson’s disease is distinguished from essential tremors in that essential tremors are more prevalent with activity and Parkinson’s disease tremors worsen at rest. Levodopa (LD) remains the gold standard pharmacological treatment for PD. However, LD’s effectiveness may decrease overtime. In addition, it has side eﬀects including motor response oscillations and dyskinesia. 
New treatment strategies that overcome these limitations are required. Acupuncture has been widely used as a complementary and alternative medicine to relieve the symptoms of PD in Asia, Europe, and in the United States. Previous studies have proven that acupuncture is effective for relieving the symptoms for patients with PD. With the help of acupuncture, both motor symptoms (gait disorder and balance) and non-motor symptoms (psychiatric disorders, sleep problems, gastrointestinal symptoms) can be relieved. In this study, the researchers note that “the use of acupuncture in an integrated treatment protocol can reduce the dosage of LD to eliminate its side eﬀects.” 
The Zhejiang University of Traditional Chinese Medicine researchers (Yang et al.) used the following study design. A total of 38 patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease were treated and evaluated in this study. They were randomly divided into an acupuncture plus drug treatment group and a drug control group, with 18 patients in each group. There were no significant statistical differences in age, gender, severity of disease, and course of disease relevant to patient outcome measures for patients initially admitted to the study (P>0.05).
The control group received 62.5 – 500 mg of levodopa-benserazide (2 – 4 times per day). Dosage was dependent upon the severity of Parkinson’s disease. Patients in the control group were not treated with acupuncture. The treatment group received both scalp and body style acupuncture in addition to the identical drug treatment protocol administered to the control group. The acupoints used for scalp acupuncture included the following:
- MS1 (middle line of forehead)
- MS5 (middle line of vertex)
- MS6 (anterior oblique line of vertex-temporal)
The acupoints used for body style acupuncture included the following:
- LI4 (Gegu)
- SI3 (Houxi)
- LI5 (Yangxi)
- SI6 (Yanglao)
- LI11 (Quchi)
- PC3 (Quze)
- LU5 (Chize)
- LV3 (Taichong)
- ST41 (Jiexi)
- KI3 (Taixi)
- GB34 (Yanglingquan)
- SP9 (Yinlingquan)
- BL40 (Weizhong)
- GB30 (Huantiao)
For scalp acupuncture, treatment commenced with patients in a supine position. A 0.25 mm × 40 mm disposable acupuncture needle was inserted transverse-obliquely into each acupoint, to a standard depth. Each needle was manipulated with the twirling method for three minutes. Once manual acupuncture achieved the arrival of deqi, electroacupuncture stimulation was added to the acupoints using a dense wave. The intensity level was set to patient tolerance levels. A 30 minute needle retention time was observed.
For body style acupuncture, needles were rapidly inserted perpendicularly and were manipulated with mild reinforcing and reducing (Ping Bu Ping Xie) manipulation methods. After achieving a deqi sensation, the needles were retained for 30 minutes. An acupuncture treatment was applied every two days. Each treatment course consisted of 10 acupuncture sessions, followed by a 7 day break before the next course of treatments. All patients received four treatment courses in total.
The results indicate that acupuncture combined with levodopa-benserazide into an integrated treatment protocol is more effective than levodopa-benserazide as a standalone therapy. Based on the data, Yang et al. conclude that acupuncture is safe and effective for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
The Zhejiang University of Traditional Chinese Medicine clinical trial confirms additional research. University of Arizona surgery and neurology department doctors find acupuncture effective for the treatment of balance and gait disorders in Parkinson’s disease patients. Acupuncture produced significant clinical improvements in balance, gait speed, and stride length for Parkinson’s disease patients. The results of the sham controlled trial were published in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Each acupuncture session was 30 minutes in length. Patients received one acupuncture treatment per week for a total of three weeks. Patients receiving true acupuncture had a 31% improvement in balance, 10% improvement in gait speed, and 5% increase in stride length. Patients in the sham acupuncture control group did not demonstrate any improvements. The University of Arizona research team notes, “EA [electroacupuncture] is an effective therapy in improving certain aspects of balance and gait disorders in PD [Parkinson’s disease].” 
 Yang DH, Shi Y, Jia YM. Influence of acupuncture plus drug in the amelioration of symptoms and blood antioxidant system of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Chinese Journal of Clinical Rehabilitation, 2006 (19) :14 －16
 Dias V1, Junn E, Mouradian MM. The role of oxidative stress in Parkinson’s disease [J]. J Parkinsons Dis. 2013;3(4):461-91.
 I.H. Sturkenboom, M.J. Graff, G.F. Borm, et al., Effectiveness of occupational therapy in Parkinson’s disease: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial, Trials 14 (2013) 34.
 W. Poewe, K. Seppi, C.M. Tanner, et al., Parkinson disease, Nat. Rev. Dis. Prim. 3 (2017) 17013.
 Dias V1, Junn E, Mouradian MM. The role of oxidative stress in Parkinson’s disease [J]. J Parkinsons Dis. 2013;3(4):461-91.
 Yang DH, Shi Y, Jia YM. Influence of acupuncture plus drug in the amelioration of symptoms and blood antioxidant system of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Chinese Journal of Clinical Rehabilitation, 2006 (19) :14 －16.
 Lei, Hong, Nima Toosizadeh, Michael Schwenk, Scott Sherman, Stephen Karp, Saman Parvaneh, Esther Esternberg, and Bijan Najafi. “Objective Assessment of Electro-acupuncture Benefit for Improving Balance and Gait in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease (P3. 074).” Neurology 82, no. 10 Supplement (2014): P3-074.
From HealthCMi 6/7/18 Acupuncture Found Effective for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Researchers at the Beijing Chaoyang Fatou Community Health Service Center conducted a study comparing the effects of warm needling acupuncture, standard acupuncture, and sham acupuncture.  Based on the data, the researchers conclude that warm needling acupuncture is significantly more effective than using only standard acupuncture or sham acupuncture.
Three groups were compared. In one group, patients received sham acupuncture (a placebo control system used to simulate true acupuncture used in single-blinded and double-blinded trials). In the second group, patients received standard acupuncture as a means to control chronic fatigue syndrome. In the third group, standard acupuncture was combined with moxibustion therapy. The results demonstrate that sham acupuncture does not produce significant positive patient outcomes; however, standard acupuncture and warm needling acupuncture produce significant clinical results. The researchers note, “Acupuncture (and moxibustion) can be used as alternative and safe treatment protocols for chronic fatigue syndrome.”
Chronic fatigue syndrome is defined as an illness characterized by severe disabling fatigue lasting for at least six months that is worsened by minimal physical or mental exertion. In the sphere of biomedicine, no definitive etiology has been identified. There are no key features or typical symptoms, but a sore throat, depression, and myalgia may all be present. 
The biomedical etiology of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) remains unclear. However, it has been suggested that psychological and social factors, viral loads, and immune system dysfunction may contribute to the condition. Previous studies find that CFS may be associated with a bias towards a Th2 type of response in Th1/Th2 immune balances.  Acupuncture’s ability to balance Th1 and Th2 may be one mechanism responsible for its effective action in the treatment of CFS.
Th1 (T helper 1) and Th2 (T helper 2) cells are types of T cells that play important roles in the adaptive immune system. Th1 cells secrete IL-2, interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Th2 cells produce IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, and IL-13.  In a Th2 immune response, IL-4 production by T cells is predominant over IFN-γ. Researchers Wang et al. note, “Acupuncturing at bilateral GV20 (Baihui), CV4 (Guanyuan), and ST36 (Zusanli) could elevate the serum IFN-γ concentration and the ratio of IFN-γ/IL-4 and regulate Th1/Th2 immune balance.”  This finding indicates that acupuncture may be of benefit to CFS patients with T cell imbalances.
The study involved 133 voluntary patients from the Beijing Chaoyang Fatou Community Health Service Center. All were diagnosed with CFS. Inclusion criteria were established based on the CDC (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) criteria for CFS and included the following:
- Experienced unexplained persistent or relapsing chronic fatigue for more than six months, which is not substantially alleviated by rest, and results in substantial reduction in previous levels of occupational, educational, social, or personal activities. 
In addition, the aforementioned is concurrent with four or more of the following symptoms:
- Substantial impairment in short-term memory or concentration
- Sore throat
- Tender lymph nodes
- Muscle pain
- Multi-joint pain without swelling or redness
- Headaches of a new type, pattern, or severity
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours
Patients were randomly divided into three groups: warm needling acupuncture group (n=44), acupuncture group (n=47), sham control group (n=42). For the warm needling acupuncture group, the average age of participants was 33.9 years. There were 20 males and 24 females. For the acupuncture group, the average age was 34.2 years (21 males and 26 females). For the sham control group, the average age of participants was 35.1 years (19 males and 23 females). The acupoints selected for the acupuncture and acupuncture plus moxibustion groups were the following:
- GV20 (Baihui)
- CV17 (Danzhong)
- CV6 (Qihai)
- CV4 (Guanyuan)
- ST36 (Zusanli)
- SP6 (Sanyinjiao)
- LI4, LV3 (Siguan: Hegu plus Taichong)
For the sham acupuncture control group, body points selected were neither meridian acupoints nor special acupoints. They were located at the following areas:
- 2 cm lateral to GV20
- 2 cm lateral to CV17
- 2 cm lateral to CV6
- 2 cm lateral to CV4
- 1.5 cm lateral to ST36
- 1.5 cm lateral to SP6
- 1 cm lateral to LI4, LV3
The researchers provided a Chinese medicine theoretical basis for the protocols used in this acupuncture continuing education research. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, CFS falls in the scope of deficiency taxation (Xu Lao), wilting pattern (Wei Zheng), depression disease (Yu Bing), and hundred-union disease (Bai Hu Bing). CFS presentations are categorized into several differential diagnostic patterns including spleen qi deficiency, kidney jing-essence deficiency, spleen and kidney yang deficiency, liver depression, and qi stagnation. The treatment principle is to supplement deficiencies, support upright qi (Zheng Qi), and restore the liver’s function to control the smooth flow of qi.
Acupoints were selected to achieve the therapeutic actions guided by the treatment principles. Baihui is located on the Governing Vessel (Du Mai). Administering acupuncture at this acupoint lifts yang, boosts qi, and revives the spirit mind (shen). Danzhong, Qihai, and Guanyuan are located on the Conception Vessel (Ren Mai). Needling Danzhong restores the free flow of qi and supplements ancestral qi (Zong Qi). Acupuncture at the other two acupoints supports upright qi (Zheng Qi) and benefits the kidneys. Zusanli combined with Sanyinjiao is often used in modern clinical settings to strengthen the spleen and stomach and to benefit qi and blood. Siguan (a combination of bilateral Hegu and Taichong) was applied to restore the liver’s function to control the smooth flow of qi and activate qi and blood circulation.
For all three groups, each point was pierced with a disposable 0.25 mm × 40 mm needle (Huatuo brand), adhering to standard needling depths. For Baihui and Danzhong, the needles were inserted transverse-obliquely towards the direction of meridian energy flow. For the remaining acupoints, the needles were inserted perpendicularly. When a deqi sensation was obtained, Baihui, Qihai, Guanyuan, and Zusanli were manually stimulated with Bu (tonifying) manipulation techniques, while other acupoints were stimulated with the Ping Bu Ping Xie (attenuating and tonifying) manipulation techniques. Next, a needle retention time of 30 minutes was observed.
For the warm needling group, moxibustion was added to Baihui, Qihai, Guanyuan, and Zusanli. Medicinal moxa pieces of approximately 2 cm were attached to the needle handles and ignited. Thick paper heat shields were placed over the skin for protection. Moxa was left in place for 20 minutes per 30 minute needle retention time.
Acupuncture and moxibustion sessions were administered once per day. Each treatment course consisted of ten acupuncture treatments. All patients received two treatment courses in total. To evaluate the treatment effective rate, patients were scored before and after the treatments based on the Chalder Fatigue Scale as well as the Self-rating Satisfaction Scale. The Chalder Fatigue Scale is a measurement tool used for quantifying the severity of tiredness in CFS patients across multiple parameters (e.g., physical fatigue scores, mental fatigue scores, general fatigue scores).
After the treatment, the scores of the Chalder Fatigue Scale including physical fatigue scores, mental fatigue scores, and general fatigue scores were significantly decreased in the standard acupuncture and acupuncture warm needling groups, but not in the sham acupuncture group. The physical, mental, and general fatigue scores of the standard acupuncture and warm needling groups were significantly better than those of the sham acupuncture group, while the physical and general scores of the warm needling group were markedly better than those of the standard acupuncture group (P＜0.05). Interestingly, the CFS patients’ satisfactory rates of the standard acupuncture and acupuncture plus warm needling groups were 36.2% (17/47) and 72.7% (32/44) respectively—indicating that moxibustion was well-received by patients. All groups had no adverse effects resulting from treatment or other medical procedures in the protocols.
The results indicate that warm needling acupuncture or standard acupuncture is more effective than sham acupuncture. The study by Lu et al., mentioned in this report, demonstrates that acupuncture is safe and effective for the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. Important features of TCM protocols are that they produce a high total effective rate without any significant adverse effects.
Major causes of suffering include pain, paralysis, mental illness, nausea, immune system imbalances, and fatigue. CFS and other clinical scenarios involving severe fatigue are a significant source of suffering and may be as severe as any other form of illness or complication. One concern is that since there is no clearly defined etiology within hospital medicine for CFS, patients may be marginalized or receive incomplete care.
There are instances in which patients are given psychiatric medications without addressing the biophysical sources of CFS. This focus on treating only the symptom and not the root cause of CFS potentially leads to prolonged suffering. Given the results of the research data, acupuncture with moxibustion is a reasonable treatment option, referable by primary healthcare physicians.
 Lu C, Yang XJ, Hu J. Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients. Acupuncture Research, 2014, 39(4):313-317.
 Fukuda K, Straus SE, Hickie I, Sharpe MC, Dobbins JG, Komaroff A. The chronic fatigue syndrome. a comprehensive approach to its definition and study. Ann Intern Med. 1994;121:953 – 9. International Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Study Group.
 Skowera, A et al. “High Levels of Type 2 Cytokine-Producing Cells in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” Clinical and Experimental Immunology 135.2 (2004): 294–302.
 Choi, P, and H Reiser. “IL-4: Role in Disease and Regulation of Production.” Clinical and Experimental Immunology 113.3 (1998): 317–319.
 Wang XY, Liu CZ, Lei B. “Effect of Manual Acupuncture Stimulation of Baihui, Guanyuan, Zusanli on Serum IFN-γ and IL-4 Contents in Rats with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” Acupuncture Research 2014, 39 (05): 387 – 389.
 Fukuda K, Straus SE, Hickie I, Sharpe MC, Dobbins JG, Komaroff A. The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Comprehensive Approach to its Definition and Study. Ann Intern Med. 1994 Dec 15;121(12):953-9.
4/26/18 in HealthCMi
Acupuncture soothes nasal allergy symptoms. Investigators at Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine Affiliated Hospital conducted a meta-analysis of 30 independent clinical trials with a sample size of 2,602 allergic rhinitis patients.  The researchers (Tang et al.) conclude, “Acupuncture, either used alone or combined with other treatments such as moxibustion, herbal medicine, and western medicine, were proven to have both short and long-term clinical benefits to allergic rhinitis sufferers.” The following is a basic overview of common acupuncture points used for the treatment of allergic rhinitis across the multiple studies in the meta-analysis:
- LI20 (Yingxiang
- Yintang (extra)
- LI4 (Hegu
- ST36 (Zusanli)
- EX-HN8 (Shangyingxiang, Bitong)
Allergic rhinitis (AR) is an inflammatory disorder of the nasal mucosa induced by allergen exposure that triggers IgE (immunoglobulin E) mediated inflammation.  In the USA, approximately 40–60 million people suffer from allergic rhinitis.  AR is clinically characterized by rhinorrhea (thin and primarily clear nasal discharge), sneezing, nasal itching, and nasal congestion. AR is also associated with decreased concentration and focus, irritability, sleep disturbances, and fatigue. This impacts the quality of life and reduces work productivity. In addition, there is a high risk of developing asthma for AR patients.  Common medications for the treatment of allergic rhinitis include intranasal corticosteroids, oral H1-antihistamines, and leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs). While effective, these medications often produce adverse effects and may be contraindicated during pregnancy and for children, the elderly, and patients with specific medical conditions. 
The following are clinical details of the meta-analysis. A total of 27 out of 30 studies made extensive use of the Yingxiang point. This point is anatomically located on the nasolabial groove, at the midpoint of the lateral border of the ala nasi. This acupuncture point is located on the hand Yangming large intestine meridian. It is also the crossing point of the stomach and the large intestine meridians. Needling this point smooths the flow of qi in the meridians and clears obstructions from the nasal orifice.
This point is traditionally indicated for Bi Yuan (nasal congestion), Bi Qiu (sniveling nose), and Bi Niu (nosebleed). According to Traditional Chinese Medicine principles, the lungs and large intestine have an interior-exterior relationship (i.e., the lungs and large intestine are functionally interconnected). As a result, diseases of the lungs can be treated by needling acupuncture points on either the lung meridian or the large intestine meridian.
A total of 23 studies document use of the Yintang point. This acupoint is located between the two medial ends of the eyebrows in the glabella. Yintang plays a key role in “opening the orifices and regulating the spirit.” Needling this point promotes qi and blood circulation of the head and also stabilizes the mind and spirit. A total of 17 studies used the Hegu point. Hegu is the Yuan-source point of the hand Yangming large intestine meridian. Needling this point disperses obstructions in the Yangming meridian and regulates the lung qi.
A total of 14 studies used Zusanli. Zusanli is the He-confluence point of the foot Yangming stomach meridian, which starts at the side of the nose. The stomach meridian of foot yangming primary channel begins at the side of the nose at Yingxiang (LI20) and then ascends to the root of the nose where it intersects with Jingming (BL1). Zusanli activates local qi and blood circulation and removes local obstructions affecting the meridians. Needling this point also regulates the stomach, intestines, and lungs for purposes of strengthening the internal organs related to allergic rhinitis. A total of 11 studies used Shangyingxiang (also known as Bitong). Needling this point promotes local qi and blood circulation and relieves nasal congestion. This acupoint is located near the upper end of the nasolabial groove, at the junction of the maxilla and the nasal cavity.
The researchers conclude that acupuncture provides both long and short term relief as a standalone therapy, in combination with other Chinese medicine treatment modalities, and in combination with medications. Other independent sources indicate that acupuncture is effective for the alleviation of allergic rhinitis. The National Institutes of Health (NIH, USA) website covering the topic of seasonal allergies and complementary medicine states, “There are data from some randomized controlled trials that suggests that acupuncture may improve some symptoms of allergic rhinitis, as well as quality of life.” The NIH website notes that a clinical practice guideline issued by the American Academy of Otolaryngology states, “Clinicians may offer acupuncture, or refer to a clinician who can offer acupuncture, for patients with allergic rhinitis who are interested in nonpharmacologic therapy.” 
The NIH website references a meta-analysis with a sample size of 2,365 allergic rhinitis patients, “compared with a control group, the acupuncture treatment group had a significant reduction in nasal symptom scores, medication scores, and serum IgE, and an increase in quality of life scores.” [8,9] In addition, the NIH website notes that “there are high-quality randomized controlled trials that demonstrate efficacy for acupuncture in the treatment of both seasonal and perennial allergic rhinitis….” 
Scientific investigations confirm that acupuncture is a reasonable treatment option for patients with allergic rhinitis. To learn more, consult with your primary licensed acupuncturist or licensed acupuncturists in your area.
 Qu SH, Liu YX. Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of the Randomized Controlled Trial of Acupuncture for Allergic Rhinitis [J]. World Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine, 2016,11(07):900-906+948.
 Varshney J, Varshney H. Allergic Rhinitis: an Overview [J]. Indian J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 Jun; 67(2): 143–149.
 Palma-Carlos AG1, Branco-Ferreira M, Palma-Carlos ML. Allergic rhinitis and asthma: more similarities than differences [J]. Allerg Immunol (Paris). 2001 Jun;33(6):237-41.
 Xia J, Peng D. Acupuncture Combined with Herbal Medicine for Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis and Its Effectiveness on Downregulating Ig E、TNF-α、IL-4 and IL-12 [J]. International Journal of Laboratory Medicine, 2018,39(03):374-377.
 nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/allergies-science. documented 4-25-18.
 Feng, Shaoyan, Miaomiao Han, Yunping Fan, Guangwei Yang, Zhenpeng Liao, Wei Liao, and Huabin Li. “Acupuncture for the treatment of allergic rhinitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” American journal of rhinology & allergy 29, no. 1 (2015): 57-62.
 Taw, Malcolm B., William D. Reddy, Folashade S. Omole, and Michael D. Seidman. “Acupuncture and allergic rhinitis.” Current opinion in otolaryngology & head and neck surgery 23, no. 3 (2015): 216-220. Authors: UCLA Center for East-West Medicine, UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) Department of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA bIntegrative Healthcare Policy Consortium, Pinecrest Wellness Center cDepartment of Family Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine dDepartment of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, Henry Ford Health System, Michigan.
Researchers find acupuncture effective for relieving allergic asthma, a type of asthma triggered by allergens (e.g., dust mites, mold, pollen, foods). Symptoms include wheezing, difficulty breathing, itchy eyes, sinusitis, rhinitis, a general feeling of malaise, and sneezing. In a randomized controlled trial of 1,445 patients, acupuncture provided lasting relief for six months.
Acupuncture was provided for a maximum of 15 treatments over a three month period. Patients receiving acupuncture demonstrated significant relief from allergic asthma at all data points, including the six month post-treatment follow-up data point. Only manual acupuncture was administered. Laser acupuncture, electroacupuncture, and moxibustion were not permitted for the purposes of eliminating variables in the investigation. Healthcare costs for acupuncture treatment were covered by a cooperative agreement between insurance companies and the university researchers conducting the study.
Patients receiving acupuncture had marked reductions of allergic asthma during strenuous and moderate exercise, work and social activities, and during sleep. The overall quality of life scores for patients receiving acupuncture were significantly higher than patients in the control group receiving no acupuncture.
All patients were allowed usual care and acupuncture was an additional treatment modality for patients in the the acupuncture groups. The researchers note, “study results reveal that the use of acupuncture as adjunct to the routine care of allergic bronchial asthma was superior to routine care alone in improving both specific symptoms and general quality of life.”  Secondary outcome measures document that patients were satisfied with acupuncture treatment results.
The study allowed for real life clinical applications of acupuncture, except for the limitation to manual acupuncture. The acupuncture point prescriptions, including the number of acupoints used, were individualized for each patient. This differs from many research designs wherein a primary acupuncture point prescription is designated for all patients. Secondary acupuncture points are often allowed for specific medical considerations. In this study, the researchers allowed for complete customization of all acupuncture points based upon clinical presentations with no limitations to primary and secondary acupoint protocols.
The researchers note that after the three months of acupuncture treatments, patients had significant improvements in global quality of life scores and individual parameters such as symptoms, activities, emotions, physicality, and mental function. An important finding, the durability of acupuncture was confirmed by a six month follow-up. Despite not having any acupuncture for three months following the completion of the study’s treatment regimen, the six month data point measured improvements “comparable to the 3 months’ improvements.”
The researchers note, “In this pragmatic randomized trial, allergic asthma patients treated with acupuncture in addition to routine care showed clinically significant improvements in disease specific and general quality of life compared to patients who received routine care alone.”  The researchers indicate that the findings demonstrate that acupuncture is safe, effective, and is an appropriate referral recommendation. The researchers note, “This study provides further evidence for the safety of acupuncture as an intervention. This conclusion is consistent with findings in large, previously published surveys and trials.”
The researchers were from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Universität Freiburg, and University of Zurich. They provided basic statistics on the prevalence of asthma. Incidence varies between countries, with a range of 4–32%. They add that corticosteroids are standard in usual care. They note that in China, “herbal medicine and acupuncture have traditionally been utilized in the treatment of lung disease, including asthma.” In addition, “A reasonable estimate is that about 30% of adults and 60% of children in the U.S. use some form of complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) therapy for their asthma.”
Research from Anyang General Hospital confirms the results of the aforementioned European research.  Acupuncture was determined safe and effective as an adjunct to usual care for the treatment of asthma. In the two week study, patients receiving only drug therapy were compared with patients receiving treatment with both drug therapy and acupuncture. The data indicates that acupuncture greatly improves treatment outcomes. 
The acupuncture treatment and drugs-only groups received drug therapy with beclometasone dipropionate and theophylline. Beclometasone dipropionate (a steroid) was provided in the form of an inhaler, 250 µg each dose, one time per day. Theophylline (a bronchodilator) was taken once per day in the from of 0.2 gram sustained-release tablets.
Acupuncture was applied twice per day if an acute asthma attack occurred and only once per day otherwise. Total treatment time for all patients was 14 days. The following acupuncture points were administered to patients in the acupuncture group:
- Feishu (BL13)
- Yuji (LU10)
- Lieque (LU7)
- Dingchuan (MBW1)
- Dazhui (GV14)
The following secondary acupoints were applied, varying for each patient according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) differential diagnostics:
- Ashi points
- Neiguan (PC6)
- Shanzhong (CV17)
- Fengmen (BL12)
Yuji (LU10) was inserted first to an insertion depth of 0.5–1 cun. The needle was manipulated with strong attenuation techniques and was retained for 25 minutes. During retention, the needle was manipulated every five minutes. Feishu (BL13) and Dazhui (GV14) received standard insertion with equal reinforcement and attention techniques with lifting, thrusting, and rotating. Feishu (BL13) and Dazhui (GV14) were retained for 15 minutes, followed by cupping or warm needle acupuncture. For the remaining acupoints, the needles were manipulated with attenuation techniques (moderate to strong stimulation) and were then retained for 25 minutes. The results demonstrate that acupuncture provides significant relief from asthma when added to a usual care regimen.
In a separate investigation, an examination of Taiwan’s Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI) records yielded a sample size of 12,580 asthmatic children. Children with asthma receiving a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine and drug therapy have superior patient outcomes, less visits to emergency rooms, and fewer hospitalizations than children receiving only drug therapy. In a 15 multi-hospital five year study, Traditional Chinese Medicine (acupuncture, herbal medicine, Chinese Tuina massage, herbal pastes) was combined with pharmaceutical drugs including inhaled bronchodilators and steroids in the study protocol.
The integrative medicine approach (TCM plus drug therapy) produced an astonishing result. Not a single child receiving integrative medicine during the study required an emergency room (ER) visit or hospitalization. The superior clinical outcomes and reduction of medical emergencies indicates that integrating TCM into conventional protocols benefits children with asthma.  The BNHI paid for all medical visits and examined the cost-effectiveness of combining TCM therapies with drug therapy. It was found that there is an additional upfront cost to provide TCM therapies but there is a savings on the backend in reduced emergency room visits and hospitalizations. 
 Brinkhaus, Benno, Stephanie Roll, Susanne Jena, Katja Icke, Daniela Adam, Sylvia Binting, Fabian Lotz, Stefan N. Willich, and Claudia M. Witt. “Acupuncture in patients with allergic asthma: a randomized pragmatic trial.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 23, no. 4 (2017): 268-277.
 Wu JH. Effective observation on treating 68 cases of bronchial asthma by acupuncture plus medicine [J]. Clinical Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2016, 8(13): 109-111.
 Hung, Yu-Chiang, I-Ling Hung, Mao-Feng Sun, Chih-Hsin Muo, Bei-Yu Wu, Ying-Jung Tseng, and Wen-Long Hu. “Integrated traditional Chinese medicine for childhood asthma in Taiwan: a Nationwide cohort study.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine 14, no. 1 (2014): 389.