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Acupunct Med. 2013 Jun;31(2):132-42. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2012-010279. Epub 2013 Mar 13.

A literature review of de qi in clinical studies.

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  • 1Department of Acupuncture, Moxibustion & Meridian Research Group, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, Daejeon, South Korea.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

De qi is a sensation experienced by a patient or an acupuncturist during acupuncture treatment. Although de qi is considered to be important in acupuncture treatment, there are not many studies about de qi and its character. The purpose of this study is to review de qi questionnaires and evaluate the relationship between de qi and acupuncture points, stimulation and treatment effects.

METHODS:

A search was conducted using three English-language databases (PubMed, Cochrane and ScienceDirect) and seven Korean databases with the keywords 'de qi' and 'needle sensation'. The included studies were then categorised as following: (1) de qi measurement tools, (2) the relationship between de qi and acupuncture points, (3) the relationship between de qi and stimulation, (4) the relationship between de qi and treatment effects and (5) attitudes and opinions toward de qi.

RESULTS:

Several questionnaires have been developed to evaluate de qi, and the most frequent sensation in those questionnaires was 'heavy' and 'numb'. Although a few studies showed specificity to acupuncture points, information is still lacking to be able to draw a clear conclusion about the relationship between de qi and acupuncture points. Also, greater de qi was elicited in real acupuncture than placebo acupuncture in many studies. The relationship between de qi and treatment effects was controversial.

CONCLUSIONS:

It seems that real acupuncture induced greater de qi than sham acupuncture, and the relationship between de qi, acupuncture points and treatment effects was controversial. However, the current literature evaluating de qi is not sufficient to derive clear conclusions. Further studies with more objective indices and rigorous methodologies are needed.

KEYWORDS:

Acupuncture

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