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Acupuncture and hypertension

Q: I'm a 57 year old male, and suffer from hypertension.  In my capacity as an electrician, I have on two different occations worked in a Chinese surgery where two different practitioners have advised me that after 10 to 12 sessions of accupuncture I can come off my blood pressure medication. What are your thoughts on this?

The factsheet on our website  outlines a number of systematic reviews and randomised control trials which show some positive evidence for the effect of acupuncture on hypertension/high blood pressure. Taken as a whole the evidence is not quite good enough for us to make unequivocal claims for the efficacy of treatment, but there are certainly a great many patients who, alongside their western medication, use acupuncture regularly to help to maintain a relaxed approach to life and to help to break the cycle of anxiety/tension leading to high BP leading to anxiety/tension into which people can become 'locked'.
Clearly the ancient Chinese did not have sphygmomanometers to measure blood pressure, and the diagnosis of the patient rested on the symptoms raising from the high BP which they experienced and some of the signs which a Chinese medicine practitioner looks for when taking the pulse at the wrist, looking at the tongue and a number of other indicators of imbalance. Not surprisingly the overlap between high BP and some of the syndromes into which the symptoms are grouped is very imprecise. This is one reason, for example, why research can prove problematic because the same reading of the BP in 20 patients can arise from 20 different diagnoses in Chinese medicine, which is not helpful if you're trying to standardise all the elements in a piece of research.
The best course of action, as we say in nearly every response, is to visit a local BAcC member and ask their advice face to face. There are no rules about how many sessions someone should have for a condition, and a great deal will depend on whether in the practitioner's view the problem is a part of a much deeper pattern of distress or whether there are simple problems like blockages in the energy flow which mght be the prime cause. All that we ask our members to do is to remember to set reasonable outcomes, to review treatment regularly and certainly to review progress after four or five sessions to ensure that it is worth continuing and to make sure that the patient is happy to keep coming in.  
However, we would add that from a conventional medical perspective there are many reasons why someone can have high blood pressure, and not all of them are capable of resolution. Some may be managed effectively with a combination of medication and acupuncture, and some are capable of management by acupuncture alone. The chances that the problem can be solved once and for all are not that high that one could predict this outcome with confidence.
Of course, it may be that the Chinese doctors whom you saw recognised factors which from their perspective gave them confidence that you hypertension could be dealt with once and for all, but even if this were the case any reduction in medication needs to be managed carefully with the co-operation of your GP. The risks from sudden withdrawal from medicines which control your BP can be considerable, but there os no reason why a carefully monitored programme of reduction should not be possible.

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