Breathe Easier with Acupuncture

COPD patients treated with acupuncture have less shortness of breath

(RxWiki News) Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years. Even though modern science has yet to confirm the usefulness of this ancient medicine, it looks like acupuncture may help patients with a common lung disease.

Acupuncture may make it easier to breath during exercise for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

"Try acupuncture in addition to your standard treatment."

Breathing difficulty in COPD patients is also called dyspnea on exertion. It is one of the most common symptoms of COPD, and can be hard to control.

In a recent study, Masao Suzuki, L.Ac., Ph.D., of Kyoto University in Japan, and colleagues wanted to see if acupuncture improved this common symptom in COPD patients who were on standard drug treatment.

COPD patients were randomly split into two groups: those who received real acupuncture and those who received placebo acupuncture. Once a week, patients in both groups had needles placed in the same points around the body.

After 12 weeks, patients who received real acupuncture had less shortness of breath while exercising, compared to those who received placebo acupuncture.

To measure improvement, the researchers used the Borg scale - a scale that measures breathlessness from zero to 10, where zero is barely breathless and 10 is severely breathless.

At the beginning of the study, patients had a Borg score of about 5.5. By the end, patients treated with real acupuncture improved by 3.6 points, while the placebo patients worsened by 0.4 points.

According to Dr. Suzuki and colleagues, "This study clearly demonstrates that acupuncture is a useful adjunctive therapy in reducing [dyspnea on exertion] in patients with COPD."

The study included only 68 patients. As such, the authors write that larger and longer studies are needed to confirm acupuncture as a useful treatment for symptoms of COPD.

This research was supported by the Grants-in-Aid for scientific research from the Japan Society of Acupuncture and Moxibustion.

The study is published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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Review Date: 
June 5, 2012