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 FAQs Natural Therapies: Acupuncture

Complementary & Natural Therapies

Complementary & Natural Therapies

“What’s the research on acupuncture and Atrial Fibrillation? I’m willing to try it if it will help ease or reduce my A-Fib episodes.”

Acupuncture is a technique in which practitioners stimulate specific points on the body—most often by inserting thin needles through the skin. It is one of the practices used in traditional Chinese medicine and is generally considered safe when performed by an experienced, well-trained practitioner using sterile needles.

Some conventional medical practitioners—including physicians and dentists—practice acupuncture.

Articles in peer-reviewed medical journals describe the successful use of acupuncture to deal with conditions as varied as cocaine dependency, hiccups, and pregnancy-related pelvic pain. Results from a number of studies suggest that acupuncture may help ease types of chronic pain and reduce the frequency of tension headaches and prevent migraine headaches.

But what about A-Fib patients? Will acupuncture help reduce Atrial Fibrillation episodes or ease symptoms? Should A-Fib patients consider acupuncture treatments?” Read on…

However, clinical practice guidelines are inconsistent in recommendations about acupuncture.

Acupuncture and Arrhythmias

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, stimulation of the Neiguan spot has been utilized to treat palpitations and symptoms related to different cardiovascular diseases.

A 2010 study found acupuncture prevents arrhythmic recurrence after cardioversion in patients with persistent A-Fib. And there’s ample evidence that acupuncture is effective in treating both hypertension and supraventricular tachycardia. The article identified three acupuncture points to be stimulated:

•  Neiguan (PC-6): used to counteract palpitations, and there’s evidence that it help restore autonomic nervous system balance.
•  Shenmen (HT-7): helps calm anxiety, heart palpitations and irregular heart beat.
•  Xinshu (BL-15): has a modulating effect on the autonomic nervous system.

They concluded: “Acupuncture treatment prevents arrhythmic recurrence after cardioversion in patients with persistent AF. This minimally invasive procedure was safe and well tolerated.”

In 2012, researchers in another study observed a similar antiarrhythmic effect in both persistent and paroxysmal A-Fib patients. Two small groups of AF patients received 10 acupuncture sessions once a week with puncturing of the Neiguan, Shenmen and Xinshu spots. (For comparison, a control group was also used as well as a “sham acupuncture” group.) Research findings, through preliminary, “strongly suggest that acupuncture may be an effective non-invasive and safe antiarrhythmic tool in the management of these patients”.

A systematic research review in 2011 looked at 10 randomised controlled trials of acupuncture treatment for cardiac arrhythmias. The researchers concluded that, despite encouraging results, there was not conclusive evidence in support of acupuncture treatment for cardiac arrhythmias.

Is Acupuncture Effective for A-Fib?

Articles in peer-reviewed medical journals describe the successful use of acupuncture to deal with a variety of medical conditions.

According to the British Acupuncture Council:

“In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.”

Do the same medical journals have conclusive evidence that acupuncture works for Atrial Fibrillation? No—not yet.

Are there early indications that acupuncture may have an anti-arrhythmic effect in patients with atrial fibrillation and warrant large-scale trials? Published studies say—Yes!

So you may want to talk with your health care providers about trying acupuncture as a non-invasive and safe treatment for your Atrial Fibrillation.

Credentials and Insurance Coverage

If you decide to visit an acupuncturist, check his or her credentials. Most states require a diploma from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine for licensing.

Some insurance companies may cover the costs of acupuncture, while others may not. For more information, see NCCAM’s fact sheet Paying for Complementary Health Approaches.

References for this article

Last updated: Saturday, February 11, 2017 

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