Acupuncture/ pressureHigh Blood Pressure

Acupuncture: Complementary or alternative blood pressure therapy?

When Tufts|ebcam reviewed this topic, they concluded, “while the results of some RCT [randomized clinical trials] and case series suggest some benefits of acupuncture for managing hypertension, the results must be treated with caution because of serious methodological limitations.”

To address these shortcomings the NIH funded a rigorously designed study titled “Stop Hypertension with the Acupuncture Research Program” (SHARP).

Acupuncture as alternative therapy
In SHARP, 192 people with untreated high blood pressure (140/90 to 179/109 mm Hg) were weaned off their blood pressure medicines and randomly assigned to 3 treatments.

  • Individualized traditional Chinese acupuncture
  • Standardized acupuncture at preselected points
  • Invasive sham acupuncture

The mean decrease in blood pressure 10 weeks later didn’t differ significantly between groups. Treatments lowered blood pressure a modest 3 to 5 mm Hg.

Acupuncture as complementary therapy
But that’s not the end of the story. This study published after SHARP concluded that acupuncture offered “an additional benefit to ongoing treatment of hypertensive patients.”

  • 41 volunteers with blood pressures of at least 120/80 mm Hg were randomly assigned to real or sham acupuncture.
  • Treatment lasted 8 weeks.
  • The real acupuncture group showed a significant decrease in average blood pressure from 137/84 to 122/77 mm Hg.
  • That’s an 11% reduction in systolic pressure and an 8% reduction in diastolic blood pressure.

The sham acupuncture group showed no significant change in blood pressure.

The bottom line?
The goal of blood pressure control is less than 140/90 mm Hg, according to the 7th Report of the Joint National Committee on the Treatment of High Blood Pressure (JNC VII), which is associated with a decrease in cardiovascular complications. In people with high blood pressure and diabetes or kidney disease, the goal is less than 130/80 mm Hg.

Acupuncture appears to be an option for people who are about 10% shy of achieving JNC VII blood pressure targets.

3/17/07 14:56 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.