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Acupuncture and Drugs Found Equally Effective For Mild Depression

Guangdong Province Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital researchers find acupuncture with moxibustion produces similar positive patient outcomes rates as the drug paroxetine for treatment of mild to moderate depression. In the study, true acupuncture produced similar results as paroxetine (a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, SSRI) and significantly outperformed a sham acupuncture control group. A total of 105 patients met the eligibility criteria and were randomly assigned to three study groups (acupuncture, paroxetine, control).

The acupuncture group received an integrated acupuncture program of standard acupuncture, moxibustion, and intradermal needling. The acupoints GV20 (Baihui), MHN3 (Yintang), GV26 (Shuigou), PC6 (Neiguan), LI4 (Hegu), and LV3 (Taichong) were selected. Following disinfection, LI4 and LV3 were needled first. Size 0.35 × 25mm filiform needles were selected and inserted perpendicularly to a depth of 10–12mm. GV20 and Yintang were then needled obliquely at a 15 degree angle to a depth of 10–12mm. Finally, GV26 and PC6 were needled perpendicularly to a depth of 10–12mm. All needles were then uniformly manipulated to obtain deqi. Needles were retained for 30 minutes with mild reinforcing–reducing manipulation (Ping Bu Ping Xie) applied every 10 minutes (a total three manual simulation applications).

In addition to the above points, Yin Qi Gui Yuan abdominal acupuncture was used. This method employs the points CV12 (Zhongwan), CV10 (Xiawan), CV6 (Qihai), and CV4 (Guanyuan). With the patient in a prone position, needles were inserted perpendicularly to a depth of 10–12mm, without manually stimulating the needles to obtain deqi. Needles were retained for 30 minutes.

Moxibustion was applied to the Sihua (four flowers) points: BL17 (Geshu), BL19 (Danshu). Moxa cones were sized at 0.2cm in height with a bottom diameter of 0.1cm (approximately the size of a sesame seed) with a burning time of 2–3 seconds. A cotton swab was used to apply a small amount of Dieda Wanhua oil to the moxa bonding point. The moxa was then applied and ignited. Once the patient felt a hot sensation, the operator quickly removed the moxa by hand. Two moxa cones were burned on each point.

Following disinfection, granular intradermal needles were inserted with tweezers to the points BL15 (Xinshu) and BL18 (Ganshu). Needles were inserted subcutaneously toward the spine to a depth of 5–8mm with the needle handle retained on the skin surface. The needles were secured with medical tape, using 0.5 × 0.5cm tape under the needle handle and 1.5 × 1.5cm tape on top. Needles were retained for 2–3 days until the next treatment. Treatment was administered twice per week, at intervals of 48 hours or more. Four weeks made up one course of treatment and two courses were administered, for a total of 16 treatments.

For patients in the drug group, paroxetine hydrochloride was orally administered with a starting dose of 20mg per day. After 2–3 weeks, the dosage was increased according to the each patient’s individual reactions. Dosage was increased by 10mg weekly to a maximum of 50mg per day over the course of eight weeks. The patients were treated for a total of eight weeks.

Results The results were evaluated using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD-17) to assess depressive symptoms, and Short Form 36 (SF-36) to assess overall quality of life. SF-36 rates eight different parameters: physical function (PF), physical limitations (RP), physical pain (BP), general health (GH), vitality (VT), social function (RE), mental health (MH). Assessments were carried out at four, eight, and twelve weeks following treatment.