If your blood pressure is over 140/90 mmHg you are classified as ‘hypertensive’ and if lifestyle changes don’t bring these figures down you’ll be offered medication. Hypertension is a large problem in the UK. Over the years of treating people I’ve often witnessed the lowering of a person’s blood pressure during an acupuncture treatment which is seen as a positive ‘side-effect’. Clients will report feeling “extremely relaxed”, “pleasantly lightheaded”, “dizzy” or in more responsive cases, nearly fainting. I’ve assumed this was a short-lived effect but now evidence is starting to appear which shows acupuncture, and more specifically, electroacupuncture can have longer lasting effects (electroacupuncture is where a small electrical current is passed between two needles). For people wanting to avoid antihypertensive drugs and their unwelcome side-effects, or simply reduce their drug burden, then we need to get the message out “get some electroacupuncture”!
I must caveat that message immediately. Sadly (sorry!) you can’t still do all the unhealthy lifestyle stuff while having acupuncture – that is being overweight, drinking excessively, smoking, doing very little or no exercise, eating a highly salty, poor diet and being overly stressed. To get the best results you will need to adopt good habits along with having acupuncture (essentially doing the opposite of everything in that last sentence). The British Heart Foundation has lots of tips and recipes https://www.bhf.org.uk
There are two types of high blood pressure and acupuncture is best for essential hypertension, where there is no obvious underlying disease (not much research has been done at treating the other type with acupuncture). Early signs of high blood pressure aren’t often seen until organ disease sets in. Look out for dizziness, flushed face, headache, fatigue, nosebleeds and nervousness. Also frequent urination or night-time urination which may indicate kidney problems. Though you might not get any of these symptoms.
There is now Randomised Controlled Trial evidence to show solid cardiovascular benefits of the use of electro acupuncture. Li (2015) and his team tested electroacupuncture on 60 subjects. They found after 8 weeks of weekly treatments blood pressure reductions ranged between 4-13mmHg, with more reduction seen for Systolic Blood Pressure (top figure on your reading) rather than diastolic. It took 4 weeks for blood pressure decreases to begin and continue. Follow ups noted variations between study participants in sustaining the blood pressure decrease at 2 weeks and 1 month later (no further follow-ups were done after this time so we don’t know how long these benefits remain). These decreases don’t seem too much but the researcher Li noted that small decreases in blood pressure can reduce the risk of aneurysm (Li p 262).
So if you are the type of person that wants to turn bad habits into healthy ones and try to manage your blood pressure, use electroacupuncture as an add-on to your self-care regime.
Li et al (2015) Long-Lasting Reduction of Blood Pressure by Electroacupuncture in Patients with Hypertension: Randomized Controlled Trial. Med Acupunct. 2015 Aug 1; 27(4): 253–266