Tuesday, June 12, 2007


There is a strong fascination in the world at large and also in Malaysia, in alternative medicine. Acupuncture certainly rank very high up there , in the ranks of alternative medicine. Is alternative medicine, medicine? Does it help our patients?

Well it does appear that acupuncture is good medicine, though it is an alternative medicine. There is much work being done to understand acupuncture ( erhaps more then any other alternative medicine) and meridian lines and perhaps an alternative sympathetic nervous system. We have seen open heart surgery, being done under acupuncture. Now, in the June 4th online edition of Circulation, we see the publication of a clinical trial comparing acupuncture, performed by trained acupuncturist from China, against sham acupuncture (presumably done by local boys just twiddling a needle).

The investigators studied 160 outpatients, who had mild to moderate hypertension, by JNC 7 classifications. They have acupuncture or sham acupuncture for 6 weeks. They showed that acupuncture did lower the BP, systolic by 5.4 mmHg and diastolic by 3.0 mmHg, about the level reduction that you may get with lifestyle modification, DASH diet and exercise, or monotherapy with an ACE-I inhibitor. It is important to note that the acupuncture sessions were for 30 mins each session, at 3 times a week. After 3-6 months, the BP lowering effects was gone, and you have to do it all over again. It is also important to note that these patients had mild to moderate hypertension, with no target organ damage, or other co-morbidities. I suppose all of us are happy to read about this study because it again highlights the fact that we are slowly and steady accumulating data on acupuncture. Perhaps soon, we will be able to understand it better. Of course, acupuncture has almost no side effects, although some may not like the needle.

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