High blood pressure is a serious health problem because it increases the possibility of a stroke or a heart attack. That is why doctors term it “the silent killer.” Many people would like to be able to control their blood pressure without medications, so they may wonder: can acupuncture lower blood pressure?
Will Acupuncture Lower Blood Pressure?
Q. My doctor recently prescribed atenolol for high blood pressure. The day after I started on atenolol I felt ill. When I went back to my doctor, he asked if I had ever tried acupuncture. I had not, but I was willing to try anything.
Immediately after the procedure I felt no better, but by the third day, when I got out of bed I felt like I had risen from the dead. It has been more than a week and I still feel better than I have in years. I do not know how much this improvement is due to acupuncture but I am grateful.
Acupuncture for Hypertension:
A. Acupuncture is most often used to help people cope with pain, but one study of 32 people found that acupuncture lowered blood pressure significantly from baseline (Acupuncture and Electro-Therapeutics Research, Vol. 37, no. 4, 2012). Nitric oxide levels in the blood also increased. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels and helps lower blood pressure.
This study was preliminary, small and not placebo-controlled. Still, it’s an interesting finding.
In the intervening years, Chinese scientists have published a number of other studies showing that acupuncture can help lower blood pressure. It works even in rats, suggesting that the effect is not primarily psychological (Chinese Medicine, Aug. 30, 2016).
Other research has been aimed at discovering exactly how acupuncture lowers blood pressure (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, online Sep. 4, 2016; Scientific Reports, Oct. 24, 2016). In a clinical trial, electric pulse and laser stimulation to the acupuncture points was combined with music (Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, Sep., 2016). The combination treatment was significantly more effective at bringing blood pressure down than plain acupuncture or a placebo pill.
We are glad you got benefit from acupuncture. You might need to continue with acupuncture sessions to keep your blood pressure under control. A single treatment of any sort does not reverse hypertension.
Other Nondrug Approaches to Control Blood Pressure:
You might want to explore other natural approaches to lowering blood pressure, such as beet or grape juice. We are sending you our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment for a discussion of many of these tactics, along with medications. For more in-depth information about such approaches, including details on the well-studied and evidence-based DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), you may want to read our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic.