Hospital and university researchers in Taiwan have found that acupuncture treatment of high blood pressure in the elderly, alongside usual medication, delivers a host of other benefits. Seventy patients aged 65 and above, with hypertension and impaired mobility, receiving home care, were randomly allocated to have either standard antihypertensive drugs, or acupuncture alongside standard drugs. Acupuncture was given twice a week for 12 consecutive weeks. Patients were taking between one and three antihypertensive drugs.
At the end of the treatment period, the patients receiving the combination therapy had lower physical pain levels, improved physical and mental health, a greater ability to undertake daily living activities, and lower systolic blood pressure. The drug-only group showed no significant changes.
(Assessment of quality of life & activities of daily living among elderly patients with hypertension & impaired physical mobility in home health care by antihypertensive drugs plus acupuncture: A CONSORT-compliant, randomized controlled trial. Medicine (Baltimore), 18 March 2022.)
The British Medical Journal has published research suggesting that clinical practice and healthcare policy underuse acupuncture treatment, despite rigorous systematic reviews documenting high or moderate certainty evidence. A team of Chinese authors identified 2471 systematic reviews published between 2000 and 2020. They concluded that a majority were methodologically rigorous, and a substantial portion provided moderate or high certainty evidence.
The team recommends that in their decision-making, health bodies make better use of the evidence for acupuncture’s effectiveness. Evidence should be better disseminated to clinicians and patients. Clinicians, researchers and funders should set joint research agendas. Researchers and granting agencies should focus on areas where acupuncture has shown large effects supported with low certainty evidence, and avoid research in areas where moderate or high certainty evidence has already proven the benefit of acupuncture.
(Evidence on acupuncture therapies is underused in clinical practice and healthcare policy. BMJ, 25 February 2022.)
Researchers at the University of Alfenas Nursing School in Brazil, have found that ear acupuncture helps diabetic foot, as measured by improved vascular parameters after a course of treatment. A total of 44 patients with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to receive either five sessions of auricular (ear) acupuncture, or to a no-treatment control group.
Patients receiving acupuncture were observed to have significantly increased lower limb blood circulation and raised plantar temperature, compared with the control group.
(The effects of auricular acupuncture on vascular parameters on the risk factors for diabetic foot: A randomized clinical trial. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, August 2021.)
A team of authors from university hospitals in Munich and Beijing, has concluded that acupuncture is one of the safest medical treatments available. In a systematic review, they surveyed data from 21 studies, covering nearly 13 million acupuncture treatments.
Meta-analyses indicated one minor adverse event in 9.3% of patients during a series of treatments. Serious adverse events were rare, with estimates of 1.01 per 10 000 patients and 8 million treatments. Those requiring any medical treatment were uncommon, and estimated at 1.14 per 1000 patients. Half of the adverse events reported, involved bleeding, pain or inflammation at the needling site.
The authors conclude that acupuncture can be considered among the safer treatments in medicine. Serious adverse events are rare, and the most common minor ones are very mild.
(Acupuncture-related adverse events: systematic review & meta-analyses of prospective clinical studies. BMJ Open, 6 September 2021.)
Researchers at DongShin University in Korea, have assessed the effectiveness of acupuncture for mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and found promising results. A total of 32 patients aged 55 to 85, and with MCI, were randomly assigned to one of four acupuncture treatment arms: a core group of acupuncture points for 30 minutes; core points for 20 minutes; core points plus an additional point; electrical stimulation of core points. Sessions were given three times a week for eight weeks.
All four treatment arms were associated with beneficial effects on cognitive function, with the greatest effect coming from the core group of points when used for 30 minutes. The team recommends more rigorous clinical studies with a large sample size to validate these results.
(Factors contributing to cognitive improvement effects of acupuncture in patients with mild cognitive impairment: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Trials, 12 May 2021.)