(HealthDay News) — Blood pressure levels declined slightly in a small study of patients treated 30 minutes a week with electroacupuncture. The findings were published in Medical Acupuncture.
John Longhurst, M.D., Ph.D., a cardiologist at the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues randomly assigned participants to 1 of 2 types of acupuncture for 8 weeks. One type targeted the inner wrists and legs below the knee — points shown to potentially lower blood pressure in previous research. The other technique involved the forearm and lower leg and resulted in no blood pressure improvement, the researchers said.
“A noticeable drop in blood pressure was observed in 70% of the patients treated at the effective points, an average of 6 to 8 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure and 4 mm Hg for diastolic blood pressure,” Longhurst told HealthDay. These changes were considered slow and long-lasting — persisting for about 6 weeks. The researchers also found that blood pressure readings decreased further in a group of “high responders” who underwent monthly treatment for 6 more months.
Exactly how acupuncture might improve blood pressure isn’t clear. Longhurst said it’s possible that stimulation of the affected nerves stimulates areas of the brain that control blood pressure. In some cases, he said, insurance might cover the alternative treatment, which can cost $60 to $120 per visit.