A rigorous, randomised, single-blind, Western trial comparing acupuncture with sham needling suggests that acupuncture may decrease blood pressure in hypertensive patients by a similar amount to that achieved using pharmaceutical therapy. The German study randomised 160 outpatients (mean age 58) with uncomplicated, mild to moderate hypertension to six weeks of acupuncture performed by Chinese medicine practitioners (trained in China), or to a sham procedure. Those on hypertensive medication continued taking it. Patients were assigned to one of four patterns of hypertension, based on TCM diagnosis. Those in both trial arms underwent 22 30-minute treatment sessions over a six-week period. During each session, three acupuncture points were needled bilaterally for 20 minutes.  In the active treatment group, the points were chosen according to TCM diagnosis. Sham treatment consisted of needling points without relevance for lowering blood pressure, according to traditional concepts. Twenty-four hour ambulatory systolic and diastolic blood pressures were significantly reduced from baseline in the acupuncture-treated patients (by 5.4 mmHg and 3.0 mmHg, respectively).  No significant decrease was seen in the sham-treated patients. The extent of blood pressure reduction observed was comparable to that seen with ACE-inhibitor monotherapy or aggressive lifestyle changes.  However, blood pressure returned to pretreatment levels within 12 weeks of treatment cessation, leading investigators to conclude that ongoing acupuncture treatments would be required to maintain the beneficial effects.  (Randomized trial of acupuncture to lower blood pressure.  Circulation. 2007 Jun 19;115(24):3121-9).

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