His placebo controlled study included 17 patients with congestive heart failure. The patients were randomised to receive acupuncture or placebo – a needle that simulates the procedure without piercing the skin.
No improvement in cardiac ejection fraction or peak oxygen uptake was seen. But the six minute walk distance was ‘remarkably increased’ in the acupuncture group by 32m on average, compared to a drop of 1m in the placebo group.
Dr Johannes Backs said: ‘This is the first indication that acupuncture may improve exercise tolerance in CHF patients- when given in addition to optimised standard heart failure medication.’
Previous studies summarised by American researchers in Cardiology In Review have suggested that acupuncture could be sympatholytic in heart failure. They found that sympathetic activation during acute mental stress was virtually eliminated after acupuncture.
Another review published in Heart and Lung found that acupuncture was also holding a promise as a treatment for cardiac arrhythmias. According to the eight studies reviewed, 87% to 100% of participants converted to normal sinus rhythm after acupuncture.
(Ref: Cardiol Rev. 2004 May-Jun;12(3):171-3.; Heart doi:10.1136/hrt.2009.187930; Heart Lung. 2008 Nov-Dec;37(6):425-31. Epub 2008 Sep 11.)
The study can be found in Heart / British Medical Journal