Acupuncture is a healing technique rooted in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It has been used for thousands of years to address various health concerns, including hypertension (high blood pressure). In recent years, studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective in reducing blood pressure levels. For instance, a 2018 review found that acupuncture treatments helped lower blood pressure for anywhere from 1 to 24 hours. A 2019 review also discovered that combining acupuncture with Western medicine approaches could improve hypertension more effectively than Western medicine alone.
Acupuncture works by stimulating specific points on the body, called acupoints, using very fine, flexible needles. This stimulation is believed to balance the body’s qi, or vital energy, and help regulate different bodily functions, including blood pressure. Scientific evidence suggests that acupuncture may act on the central nervous system, influencing blood flow and hormone production.
How Does Acupuncture Treat Hypertension?
Acupuncture may reduce blood pressure (BP) through its effects on the neuroendocrine system, vascular endothelium, renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, and oxidative stress. Acupressure, a related approach that involves applying fingertip pressure to acupoints rather than using needles, has also been found to help regulate blood pressure alongside traditional treatments.
Can Acupuncture Really Help Lower Blood Pressure?
Yes. Clinical studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can effectively reduce BP in hypertensive patients. A study by Zheng et al. (2019) showed that individuals who received active acupuncture had better improvements in systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) at weeks 6, 9, and 12 compared to those who received sham acupuncture or were in a waiting-list group. Moreover, a meta-analysis by Chen et al. (2018) revealed that combining acupuncture with antihypertensive drugs achieved better results in reducing SBP and DBP than using antihypertensive drugs alone.
The Role of Acupuncture in Hypertension Treatment
Acupuncture can be used as a stand-alone therapy or in conjunction with antihypertensive medications. When used alongside medications, the dosages of the drugs can be significantly reduced, which in turn reduces their side effects. It is important to note that acupuncture should be tailored to each patient’s individual needs, as each person’s body is different. The fundamental principle of acupuncture is to bring the patient’s body to a state of equilibrium, which may not be possible if the same set of points are used for all patients.
In addition to acupuncture, lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet, reducing sodium, caffeine, and alcohol intake, and quitting smoking can also help reduce blood pressure effectively. For patients with BP levels higher than 170/100 mm Hg, additional drug treatment may be necessary, but acupuncture can still help reduce the required doses and associated side effects. For more information about how acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can treat hypertension, click here.
Electroacupuncture for Hypertension
A single-blind trial conducted at the University of California-Irvine (UCI) has provided the first scientific confirmation that electroacupuncture is beneficial for patients with mild to moderate hypertension. Electroacupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical technique which involves applying low-intensity electrical pulses through needles inserted at specific points on the body. The study found that this treatment can lower blood pressure for up to 6 weeks in patients with hypertension.
The research suggests that regular use of electroacupuncture could help people manage their blood pressure and reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke in the long term. Senior author John Longhurst, a cardiologist and UCI professor of medicine, states that this clinical study comes after nearly 10 years of bench research into the effect of acupuncture on high blood pressure.
With around 70 million American adults suffering from high blood pressure, this study offers hope for a non-pharmaceutical approach to managing the condition and reducing the risk of associated health complications.
Is Acupuncture Safe?
Acupuncture has been reported to have potential in treating hypertension with a much lower incidence of side effects (0.13%) compared to Western medicine. When performed by a certified acupuncturist, acupuncture is generally safe for most people, with little risk of side effects.
Acupuncture is a promising alternative or complementary treatment for hypertension, offering effective results with minimal side effects. If you’d like to try acupuncture, why not visit Centre of Balance? Our team of qualified Chinese Medicine practitioners will be delighted to help you.