A groundbreaking 2016 study concluded that acupuncture reduced acid reflux associated with GERD. Patients unresponsive to drug therapy saw significant improvements after receiving acupuncture care. High resolution measurements of the esophagus confirm that acupuncture improves the activity of the valve whose proper functioning prevents acid reflux. This acid reflux acupuncture research supports our own experience at Raleigh acupuncture – acupuncture works to resolve reflux!
Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine researchers (Lin et al.) concluded that acupuncture greatly improvesd esophageal motility in refractory GERD patients. The results were confirmed with high resolution tests that measured functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and esophageal muscles.
Acupuncture successfully improved LES pressure and function, increasing resistance to acid reflux. The LES is a valve preventing backflow of gastric acid into the esophagus. Acupuncture increased esophageal peristaltic pressure and integrity, an important function for gastric acid clearance. In addition, acupuncture improved swallowing.
Refractory GERD is the type of reflux disease that does not adequately respond to proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medications. PPIs are drugs that reduce stomach acid produced by glands in the lining of the stomach. The study demonstrated that acupuncture was successful where PPIs were ineffective.
Reflux in GERD occurs primarily due to esophageal motility disorders including increased frequency of transient lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxation. Prolonged reflux can cause damage to the esophagus. Current GERD treatments involve acid suppression therapy and prokinetic agents. Prokinetics are drugs that increase gastrointestinal motility by increasing the frequency of small intestine contractions, strengthen the LES, and cause the stomach to empty its contents more rapidly.
Often, GERD patients do not experience an abnormal increase in gastric acid secretion. In these cases, gastric acid suppression therapy minimizes reflux damage by increasing the pH of the substances in the esophagus. However, acid suppression therapy is limited by the fact that it does not inhibit reflux itself.
The use of prokinetic agents is controversial. The national consensus deems prokinetic agents to be effective in reducing reflux in patients with gastroparesis by helping the stomach empty its contents into the intestine, reducing upward pressure. However, studies have found that 2 weeks of treatment with these medications failed to improve either esophageal motility or LES function.
40 patients with refractory GERD participated in this acid reflux acupuncture research study. They were randomly divided into two equal groups: a treatment group and a control group. High resolution esophagus imaging was conducted twice, before and after treatment. After the first exam, control group patients lay down for 30 minutes, while the treatment group received acupuncture treatment. The primary acupuncture points selected for the treatment group included:
A sterile, single-use acupuncture needle was inserted into each acupuncture point, according to standard insertion depths. Upon arrival of a deqi sensation (a condition indicating that the needle has activated the healing energy [Qi] essential to effective acupuncture treatment), an acupuncturist applied the Ping Bu Ping Xie (tonification or sedation) manipulation technique appropriate for each point. Needles were retained for 30 minutes.
SP4 and PC6 are two of the eight confluent points in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) acupuncture. The SP4 acupuncture point resides where the Chong meridian and spleen Taiyin meridian intersect. The PC6 acupuncture point is located where the pericardium Jueyin meridian and Yin Wei meridian intersect. Both points are indicated for the treatment of heart, chest, and stomach ailments in TCM. The ST36 acupuncture point, which is located along the stomach Yangming meridian, is a classic point commonly selected when treating a multitude of diseases, especially stomach illnesses.
Based on this research, the investigators concluded that acupuncture improves LES pressure and effective length, which raises resistance to reflux. Additionally, it increases peristalsis strength of the esophagus, which is essential to clear esophageal acid.
The Acupuncture Group
Before and after treatment, the GERD patients who received acupuncture had an average LES resting pressure of 20.2 mm Hg and 26.3 mm Hg respectively. The length of the LES increased from an average of 2.2 to 3.3 cm. The distal esophageal peristaltic amplitude increased from and average of 73.7 mm Hg to 88.5 mm Hg. Duration of peristalsis increased from an average of 2.9 seconds to 3.2 seconds. These differences were all statistically significant. There was no significant difference in the LES residual pressure.
The Control Group
On the other hand, before and after, the control group reported an average LES resting pressure of 20.4 mm Hg and 19.8 mm Hg respectively. The average length of LES increased from 2.3 cm to 2.5 cm. The average distal esophageal peristaltic amplitude increased from 69.7 mm Hg to 71.3 mm Hg. Duration of peristalsis increased from an average of 2.8 seconds to 2.9 seconds. These differences were all statistically insignificant except for the length of LES. Similar to the acupuncture treatment group, there was no significant difference in the LES residual pressure.
The acupuncture group saw a significant increase in normal swallows, from 56% before treatment to 74% after treatment. The control group saw no significant increase, from 58.5% before treatment to 54.5% after treatment. The acupuncture group saw a reduction in delayed esophageal emptying, from 31.5% before treatment to 11.5% after treatment. The control group saw an insignificant difference—from 40% before treatment to 44.5% after treatment.
Acid Reflux Acupuncture Research Conclusions
The clinical results from this acid reflux acupuncture research study demonstrated that acupuncture produced positive patient outcomes in the treatment of refractory GERD. Patients who received acupuncture saw improvements in all measures of esophageal function related to GERD. This is an encouraging validation that acupuncture can be implemented effectively when standard medication therapy has little curative effect for GERD.
Raleigh Acupuncture GERD Treatment
At Raleigh Acupuncture we have been successfully treating acid reflux and GERD for years. This latest acid reflux acupuncture research lines up with our own experience and reinforces the conclusion that acupuncture helps resolve acid reflux and GERD. If you suffer from these conditions give acupuncture a try.
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Lin H, Sun J, Yuan YZ & Tang YM. (2014). Effects of acupuncture on esophageal motility of patients with refractory gastroesophageal reflux disease. Chinese Journal of Digestion. 34(10).
Ates F & Vaezi MF. (2014). New approach to management of PPI in treating refractory gastroesophageal reflux disease. Curr Treat Options Gastroenterol. 12(1): 18-33.
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What our Clients are Saying
I’ve been coming to Raleigh Acupuncture for the last month and I have nothing but good things to say. They are so knowledgable about the whole body and care for the whole body. I have been taking acid reflux meds for years now every night. If I didn’t take them I had so many problems (burning, hurting stomach, waking up from pain in the middle of the night, etc.). After just the first treatment I was only having to take meds every other day. After 4 treatments now, I take medicine maybe every 3-4 days. The acupuncture has made more of a difference than anything else, and I am so thankful to have found Raleigh Acupuncture.
Fantastic results for my acid reflux! No more burning pain, and I can eat alot more foods. Great job Raleigh Acupuncture! I’m sending all my friends to you!
I was diagnosed with GERD (acid reflux) 12 years ago and was put on medication at that time. The medication (Prilosec) eased my symptoms but I still always had some level of daily discomfort. I read an article about Chinese medicine being able to cure GERD and decided to explore my options. Raleigh Acupuncture had a good website and reviews so I booked an appointment. Their intake was very thorough and afterward they treated me with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Within three treatments I was feeling much less symptoms of the GERD, less pain and burning. Within nine treatments my condition was completely resolved. It’s been a year since my last treatment and the GERD has not reappeared. This should be mandatory for all patients suffering from acid reflux. It does not make any sense to take medications for your whole life when a condition can be cured in a month for less than $500.
My acid reflux meds stopped working about three months ago and someone suggested acupuncture so I gave it a try. I couldn’t eat anything without having burning pain from my stomach up into my chest. What a relief from the acupuncture! They totally cured my reflux. I’ve been living with this, just managing it with medications, when all the while I could have cured it with this. Absolutely amazing! I love Raleigh Acupuncture!!