Acupuncture combined with electrical stimulation, or electroacupuncture, can lower elevations in blood pressure by 50 percent, according to a study in rats. The treatments provided temporary relief from elevated blood pressure, such as what occurs in hypertension.
The study involved rats with artificially elevated blood pressure. Acupuncture was applied to specific points on the rats' forelimbs--the corresponding human point would be on the inside of the forearm just above the wrist--but did not change blood pressure rates.
Researchers then added electrical stimulation to the treatment by running an electrical current through the acupuncture needles. While high frequencies of stimulation had no effect, low frequencies lowered elevated blood pressure rates by 40 percent to 50 percent. A 30-minute treatment was able to reduce blood pressure by 25 mmHg, and the reduction lasted for nearly two hours.
One caveat: The electroacupuncture worked only on elevated blood pressure levels, not standing levels. The researchers said their goal is to establish a "standard acupuncture treatment" that can benefit those with hypertension and other cardiac ailments, and believe electroacupuncture, which is now being tested on humans, may be useful for the long-term care of these conditions in human patients.
Ancient Healing Practices Meet the Western World
Acupuncture provides an excellent complement to other medical treatments, researchers say, but the Western world is still waiting for a definitive scientific basis for using this age-old treatment.
During acupuncture, a 3,000-year-old form of Chinese medicine, needles are inserted into specific body points to help relieve pain and disease. Previous studies by the same authors have shown that acupuncture excites brain cells, causing them to release neurotransmitters that can inhibit or heighten the heart's activity.
Specifically, when a needle is inserted at a certain point on the wrist, forearm or leg, opioid chemicals in the brain that reduce excitatory responses in the cardiovascular system are released. The result? A decrease in heart activity and need for oxygen, which can lower blood pressure and promote the healing of heart-related conditions like myocardial ischemia (insufficient blood flow to the heart) and hypertension.
Journal of Applied Physiology March 2005, Vol. 98: 872-880
Medical News Today March 29, 2005