Acupuncture for Autistic Children

Researchers have studied the effects of acupuncture for autistic children, and in particular whether scalp acupuncture may help with their language development. Twenty autistic children aged between four and seven years, were divided into two groups, and both received a nine month course of language therapy, aimed at stimulation of cognitive and verbal abilities, in order to help language impairment. In addition, one group received scalp acupuncture (treatment which makes use of some of the many acupuncture points on the scalp). Both groups showed significant improvement in cognitive and expressive language skills, but there was a markedly greater improvement in the group which had received acupuncture.

The researchers conclude that scalp acupuncture is a safe complementary modality when combined with language therapy, and has a significantly positive effect on language development in children with autism

(Scalp Acupuncture Effect on Language Development in Children with Autism: A Pilot Study. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, March 2008.)

Acupuncture Regulates the Immune System

The effect of acupuncture on the immune system has been investigated by Japanese researchers. They measured immune system markers in the blood of seventeen healthy volunteers aged 21-51, both before and after receiving acupuncture, in order to determine the activity of T cells, B cells, macrophages and natural killer cells. Their observations suggested that acupuncture regulates the immune system, and promotes humoral (antibody driven) and cell-mediated (T cell driven) immunity, as well as natural killer cell activity.

(Acupuncture Regulates Leukocyte Subpopulations in Human Peripheral Blood. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, December 2007.)

Acupuncture for Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain

Researchers studying the effects of acupuncture for chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome, randomised 89 patients into two groups, receiving either true or sham acupuncture, twice-weekly over ten weeks. (The sham group acted as a control and were lead to believe they were experiencing real acupuncture.) In the true acupuncture group, 73% of patients responded, compared to only 47% in the sham group. At follow-up 24 weeks later, this level of response was maintained by 32% of the acupuncture group and only 13% of the sham control group. Patients receiving true acupuncture were thus 2.4 times more likely to experience long-term benefit.

(Acupuncture versus Sham Acupuncture for Chronic Prostatitis/ Chronic Pelvic Pain. American Journal of Medicine, January 2008.)

Acupuncture for Heartburn

Heartburn, caused by reflux of stomach acid, is a common symptom, and may be due to simple indigestion or due to a condition such as hiatus hernia. Proton pump inhibitor drugs, such as omeprazole, are often prescribed to control it, and if they are not working, standard practice is to double the dose.

An American clinical trial looked at acupuncture for heartburn and enrolled thirty patients who did not respond to the standard drug dose. They were randomly assigned to receive either double the dose, or standard dose plus two acupuncture sessions per week. After four weeks, the acupuncture group demonstrated a significant decrease in heartburn day and night, and in acid regurgitation. The double drug dose group did not demonstrate a significant change.

The authors noted that acupuncture was found to enhance gastric peristalsis, as observed by ultrasonography, and to accelerate gastric emptying in dyspeptic patients with documented delayed gastric emptying.

(Clinical trial: acupuncture vs. doubling the proton pump inhibitor dose in refractory heartburn. Alimentary Pharmacology Therapeutics, September 2007.)

Acupuncture for High Blood Pressure

Acupuncture for high blood pressure. This trial investigated the effects of acupuncture for high blood pressure, and in particular as an add-on to conventional hypertension management eg. medication and lifestyle measures. Forty-one volunteers were allocated randomly to receive either acupuncture or sham acupuncture; the latter is where the patient is touched in a way that leads them to believe a needle has been inserted, when it has in fact not. Those patients already on medication, continued to take it. After eight weeks, the sham group showed no significant change in blood pressure, whereas the acupuncture group showed a significant decrease, from an average 136.8/83.7 to 122.1/76.8 mmHg.

(Acupuncture, a promising adjunctive therapy for essential hypertension: a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. Neurol Res 2007;29 Suppl 1.)