Acupuncture Could Lower High Blood Pressure, New Study Suggests

Acupuncture, the Chinese treatment of inserting one to 20 FDA-approved, metallic needles into a person’s body for between 15 to 30 minutes as a way to treat pain, has long been seen as a form of medicine without any genuine scientific benefits. However, more and more research has been proving acupuncture has real, medical benefits — including the ability to help lower blood pressure.

The new study, which was published in the journal Medical Acupuncture, analyzed acupuncture’s effects on 65 hypertensive patients who weren’t taking any hypertension medication at the time of the study.

Researchers divided them into two groups. The first received electroacupuncture — a low-intensity electrical stimulation on different needle points in the body — on the patients’ inner wrists and below their knees. The second group received electroacupuncture treatment on their forearms and lower legs.

In the first group, 70% of participants saw a reduction in blood pressure, which lasted for over a month, and a reduction in blood concentration levels of norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter that constricts blood vessels and elevates blood pressure.

The second group didn’t see the same lowered blood pressure effect as the first group, which suggests that the location of electroacupuncture has a role in determining the efficacy of the treatment.

“This clinical study is the culmination of more than a decade of bench research in this area,” said study author Dr. John Longhurst in the press release. “By using Western scientific rigor to validate an ancient Eastern therapy, we feel we have integrated Chinese and Western medicine and provided a beneficial guideline for treating a disease that affects millions in the U.S.”

High blood pressure is both a widespread and tricky problem. About one in three U.S. adults — 70 million — have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, it’s believed that only half of those adults have it under control, which means that half have a condition that could lead to stroke and heart disease.

Getting into shape, taking medication, or a combination of both can lower blood pressure, but these approaches don’t always work. Medication can also cause side effects, particularly among elderly.

The results of this new study are promising, in that they suggest acupuncture as a possible alternative that could help that some 35 million people get their high blood pressure in check.

As Dr. Longhurst explained, “Potentially, blood pressure can be kept low with a monthly follow-up treatment.”

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