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Acupuncture Doesn't Lower Blood Pressure

Popular Eastern Medicine Technique Fails to Control Mildly Elevated Blood Pressure in Small Study
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May 25, 2004 (New York) -- Proponents of acupuncture say it is effective for treating dozens of ailments including allergies, asthma, sports injuries, and migraines, but results of new study show that acupuncture is not effective for treating high blood pressure.

"There are studies that report about 5 billion visits to acupuncture specialists each year. In Texas there are a number of centers that advertise acupuncture for high blood pressure, so we decided to test the treatment in a well-designed, scientific study," Norman M. Kaplan, MD, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, tells WebMD.

The study was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. The results were recently reported at the 19th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension in New York City.

Acupuncture's Effects Temporary

Kaplan used ambulatory blood pressure monitors that record blood pressures around-the-clock to measure the effects of acupuncture in a group of volunteers.

Immediately after acupuncture treatment systolic blood pressure, which is the upper number that appears first in a blood pressure measurement, dropped slightly, "but this effect is not sustained," Kaplan says.

Moreover, there was not even a temporary change in diastolic pressure, which is the bottom number that is reported as the second number in a blood pressure measurement.

Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, tells WebMD that it is difficult to draw too many conclusions from Kaplan's study because the numbers are so small -- only 11 volunteers participated in the 4-week-long study.

But Lloyd-Jones, who wasn't involved in the acupuncture study, says that the "evidence from this type of intensive blood pressure monitoring is most compelling. It demonstrates that blood pressure did not change."

Kaplan agrees that with such small numbers the results "should not be overinterpreted and I don't think we should make too broad an implication. But, the fact is that we don't have any other controlled trial data on which to make a judgment, so I think the findings are useful."

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