Hypertension is a common problem among adults living in developed countries. Up to half of all people suffer from an elevation in their blood pressure, some of whom have blood pressure increases as a result of stress.
According to Western medical principles, high blood pressure is treated through the use of a low salt diet and medications that control the hypertension. These medications are not without their side effects, making it a particularly attractive option to use some form of alternative therapy to manage the disease.
Can Acupuncture Lower Blood Pressure?
Can acupuncture be of benefit to those individuals who have mild or moderate hypertension? According to a small study, published by cardiologists at the University of California Irvine, acupuncture may be effective; however, more research is necessary to see if this holds out in a larger population.
In the study, which was published in Medical Acupuncture, it was found that there was a slight reduction in blood pressure among a small group of participants who were treated with a 30-minute treatment using electro-acupuncture. Electro-acupuncture is a form of acupuncture in which small amounts of electricity are applied to the acupuncture needles, which are inserted into specific acupuncture points of the body.
According to the researchers, it may only take a once monthly acupuncture treatment in order to maintain low blood pressure levels in those patients who had mild hypertension.
It is estimated that 70 million individuals in the US have some form of hypertension, and could benefit from acupuncture therapy. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to problems with heart disease and stroke.
While blood pressure can often be managed by increasing physical fitness, taking anti-hypertensive medications or both, these Western medical practices are not effective on everyone and there can be significant side effects from taking these medications, especially in people who are older.
Acupuncture lowers blood pressure by the insertion of tiny, sterile needles into specific areas of the body that control heart, blood vessels, and the kidneys. Acupuncture is believed to restore the balance of qi energy in the body so that blood pressure can be reduced.
Medical Acupunture’s Study
There have been other studies done on the effectiveness of acupuncture on high blood pressure but these have led to mixed results. The study in Medical Acupuncture attempted to look more thoroughly into the subject of whether or not acupuncture could help hypertension by studying 65 participants who had high blood pressure.
In the study, hypertension was defined as having a systolic blood pressure of between 140 and 180 mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure of between 90 and 99 mm Hg. Normal blood pressure is considered to be a systolic pressure below 120 mmHg and a diastolic pressure below 80 mmHg, according to experts at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. None of the research subjects were taking medications for hypertension at the time of the study.
The study participants were assigned to have one of two different types of acupuncture over an eight-week period of time. The first type had acupuncture to the inside of the wrists and the calf area, which are acupuncture points believed to lower blood pressure according to past research.
The other acupuncture technique involved acupuncture to the lower leg and forearm, which are not generally associated with the treatment of high blood pressure.
There was a significant decrease in blood pressure among 70 percent of patients who were treated in the areas known to reduce blood pressure. The average systolic blood pressure number dropped by 6-8 mm Hg and the average diastolic blood pressure dropped by about 4 mm Hg during the study.
There was a gradual reduction in blood pressure among all the treated participants, an effectiveness that lasted for about six weeks after receiving acupuncture therapy. Those that had treatments once a month for six months responded particularly well to the acupuncture treatments.
Exactly how acupuncture therapy improves high blood pressure isn’t known. It may affect areas of the brain associated with high blood pressure or it may cause a reduction in stress, which causes blood pressure to drop. In some cases, acupuncture treatments can be covered by the individual’s health insurance plan. If not, the cost is about $60 to $120 for each visit.
The study was not without its flaws. It didn’t make it clear as to whether or not the participants had been taking blood pressure medications prior to the study. There was also a wide variation in the blood pressure among the participants.
Even so, the general consensus is that acupuncture may be effective in the management of mild to moderate high blood pressure, although it isn’t clear how often you should receive the treatments in order for it to be effective.