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Acupuncture effects on reflex responses to mental stress in humans.

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University of California Los Angeles Department of Medicine (Cardiology), Los Angeles 90095, USA.


In animal studies, acupuncture has been shown to be sympathoinhibitory, but it is unknown if acupuncture is sympathoinhibitory in humans. Nineteen healthy volunteers underwent mental stress testing pre- and postacupuncture. Muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA), blood pressure, and heart rate during mental stress were compared pre- and postacupuncture. Control acupuncture consisted of acupuncture at nonacupoints and "no-needle" acupuncture. Acupuncture had no effect on resting MSNA, blood pressure, or heart rate. After real acupuncture, the increase in mean arterial pressure (pre- vs. postacupuncture 4.5 vs. 1.7 mmHg, P < 0.001), but not MSNA or heart rate, was blunted during mental stress. Similarly, following nonacupoint acupuncture, the increase in mean arterial pressure was blunted during mental stress (5.4 vs. 2.9 mmHg, P < 0.0003). No-needle acupuncture had no effect on these variables. In conclusion, acupuncture at traditional acupoints, nonacupoints, and no-needle acupuncture does not modulate baseline MSNA or MSNA responses to mental stress in normal humans. Acupuncture significantly attenuates the increase in blood pressure during mental stress. Needling nonacupoints, but not "no-needle" acupuncture, have a similar effect on blood pressure.

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