top of page

Acupuncture Rivals Steroid Inhaler For COPD

Acupuncture is an effective treatment modality for patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), an inflammatory lung disease. First Clinical Medicine College of Hubei University of Traditional Chinese Medicine researchers conducted a controlled clinical trial comparing acupuncture with the drug Seretide for improvements in lung function, clinical symptoms, and quality of life for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Acupuncture produced results rivalling that of Seretide (a steroid plus beta-2-agonist inhaler). Spirometer measurements document that the lungs improve significantly from the drug and from acupuncture. Acupuncture monotherapy produced significant improvements in forced expiratory volume (FEV1), FEV1 to forced vital capacity ratio (FEV1/FVC), and peak expiratory flow (PEF). [1] 

The results of this study indicate that both the drug Seretide and acupuncture monotherapy treatments offer significant benefits for patients suffering from COPD. This includes improvements in lung function, reduction in clinical symptoms, and enhanced quality of life. Although acupuncture treatments resolve symptoms more slowly than Seretide, it has the advantage of being safe, with a low risk of adverse effects.

COPD is a severe and sometimes life-threatening disease. COPD is often caused by tobacco smoking, exposure to fumes, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. Clinical symptoms include coughing, excessive sputum production (clear, white, yellow, or green), wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

COPD symptoms often negatively impact the quality of life. Conventional treatments include inhaled drugs such as Seretide, which act to reduce inflammation and open the airways. However, long-term use of such medications may result in tolerance and serious adverse effects, including liver and kidney damage. The Hubei University of Traditional Chinese Medicine study aimed to identify whether or not acupuncture could offer an effective solution, improving the quality of life with an added benefit over drugs: a reduction in the risk of adverse effects. The results indicate that acupuncture is a potent treatment option that produces significant positive patient outcomes.

A total of 61 patients with stable COPD were recruited for the study. One dropped out due to being unable to complete the treatment period, and the remaining participants were randomly assigned to receive treatment with Seretide (n=30) or acupuncture (n=30). The Seretide group consisted of 13 male and 17 female participants, with a mean age of 65.25 years, and a mean duration of disease of 10.78 years. The acupuncture group consisted of 14 male and 16 female participants, with a mean age of 62.87, and a mean duration of disease of 10.34 years. There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups in terms of demographics at the onset of the investigation. Inclusion criteria for the study were the following: clinical diagnosis of stable COPD, age 45–75 years, duration of disease 4–25 years, and the ability to give informed consent.

Seretide Group Participants allocated to the Seretide group were prescribed Seretide inhalers containing the bronchodilator salmeterol (50mcg), and the corticosteroid fluticasone (250mcg). The dosage was one inhalation, twice per day, and the course of treatment was eight weeks.

Acupuncture Group Although COPD is a disease which primarily affects the lungs, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, it also has the potential to impact the kidneys and spleen. Disharmony of these three internal organs leads to insufficiency of yang qi, accumulation of dampness, phlegm stagnation, and obstruction of the lungs. On this basis, the following acupoints were selected for use on all acupuncture group patients:

  • Dingchuan (MBW1)

  • Feishu (BL13)

  • Zusanli (ST36)

Secondary acupoints were administered, based on diagnostic considerations:

  • Fengmen (BL12)

  • Lieque (LU7)

  • Gaohuang (BL43)

  • Danzhong (CV17)

  • Tiantu (CV22)

  • Fenglong (ST40

  • Pishu (BL20)

  • Shenshu (BL23)

Treatment was administered with patients in a seated position. Following standard disinfection, 0.35mm × 40mm filiform needles were inserted into the primary acupoints. Needles were inserted slowly and stimulated using a balanced reinforcing-reducing method to obtain deqi. Needles were retained for a total of 30 minutes.

Following removal of needles from the primary points, the patients were moved to a treatment couch and 2–3 of the secondary points were selected and needled according to the same procedure. Treatment was provided three times weekly, for a total of eight weeks. Any additional symptoms arising during the treatment period were treated with approp