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Important to know: Chronic health conditions should be addressed under direct medical supervision of your GP or consultant, and acupuncture would be an adjunct or complement to usual care – we advise that you let you doctor know when you use this approach.
About the research: It is worth noting that in research, randomised controlled studies (RCT) are the most reliable in terms of quality of evidence, with a systematic review or meta analysis of numerous studies being the best way of seeing the overall picture of the state of the evidence. Below we have a selection of the available research, which does include some larger RCTs, and reviews of the literature alongside smaller studies. The n= figure tells you how many people were participants in the study.
Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Anxiety Among Patients With Parkinson Disease – A Randomized Clinical Trial
Around a third of Parkinson’s patients report anxiety symptoms, which impacts upon their quality of life. Fan and colleagues (2022) looked at n=64 patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) using a double-blind randomised controlled trial. They compared real acupuncture (RA) with sham (SA) as a control group. Their scores on a number of scales measuring anxiety, Parkinson’s disease rating scale and questionnaires were compared before and after the treatment course, plus at 8 weeks post treatment (HAM-A; UPDRS; PDQ-39. Measures of blood levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and adrenocorticotropic hormone (the hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol) were also taken before and after the treatment course, and again 8 weeks after the end of the treatment course.
Whereas both groups showed clinical improvements in anxiety at the end of treatment, only the real acupuncture group maintained an improvement after the 8 weeks. The researchers recommend a larger, multi centre study to gain a bigger perspective.
For blood levels of the stress/anxiety related hormones, per the researchers: “The serum ACTH levels in the RA group were lower than in the SA group. It may be preliminarily confirmed that acupuncture can reduce the level of ACTH in serum, a finding that is in line with previous results, where the authors have proved that acupuncture can alleviate increased stress hormone levels and mitigate anxiety“. They reference Seo and colleagues, (2021), an animal model study of effects acupuncture has on specific neurotransmitters and hormones in a stress model.
Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis for PD Motor Symptoms
Lei et al, (2023) examined acupuncture’s effects on the motor function of Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis (16 RCT’s, n=462) compared acupuncture with sham acupuncture or antiparkinsonian drugs.
They found that acupuncture had a better effect on UPDRS-III scores (measure of PD motor symptoms severity) than the control group. Lei and colleagues suggested future studies could use larger sample sizes and more standardised protocols to overcome limitations, and concluded that acupuncture may be a beneficial adjuvant therapy for PD patients with motor issues.
References: British Acupuncture Council evidence based factsheet about Parkinson’s Disease including specific research, trials and mechanisms of action for acupuncture in this condition.
Fan, J.Q., Lu, W.J., Tan, W.Q., Liu, X., Wang, Y.T., Wang, N.B. and Zhuang, L.X., 2022. Effectiveness of acupuncture for anxiety among patients with Parkinson disease: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Network Open, 5(9), pp.e2232133-e2232133.
Lei, S., Fan, J., Liu, X., Xv, X., Zhang, J., Zhou, Z. and Zhuang, L., 2023. Qualitative and quantitative meta-analysis of acupuncture effects on the motor function of Parkinson’s disease patients. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 17.
Seo, S.Y., Bang, S.K., Kang, S.Y., Cho, S.J., Choi, K.H. and Ryu, Y.H., 2021. Acupuncture Alleviates Anxiety and 22-kHz Ultrasonic Vocalizations in Rats Subjected to Repeated Alcohol Administration by Modulating the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor/Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone Signaling Pathway. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 22(8), p.4037