Acupuncture outperforms a benzodiazepine medication for the treatment of insomnia.

Researchers find acupuncture more effective for the relief of insomnia than estazolam, a benzodiazepine pharmaceutical drug. Using Pittsburgh sleep quality index (PSQI) scores as a basis of comparison, acupuncture outperformed estazolam for the improvement of “sleep quality, efficiency disturbance and daytime dysfunction.” The researchers note that the acupuncture protocol used to achieve the treatment results included a specialized order for inserting the acupuncture needles and that the “sequence of acupuncture points” plays an important role.

The investigation explored the efficacy of the Governor Vessel (GV) unblocking protocol developed by Prof. Gao Yu-chun. The researchers provide the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) basis for the protocol. The GV unblocking approach to care for the treatment of insomnia focuses on calming the mind by nourishing kidney water to “submerge liver yang and harmonize heart mind by stimulating the three Yuan-Primary points Shenmen (HT7), Taichong (LR3) and Taixi (KI3).” The protocol also focuses on harmonizing the spleen and stomach. According to TCM principles, ascending “turbid qi or insufficient qi and blood due to dysfunctions of the spleen and stomach may either cause or aggravate insomnia.” To address these concerns, the following acupoints were included:

Zhongwan (CV12)
Tianshu (ST25)
Yinlingquan (SP9)

The researchers note that the harmonizing functions of CV12, ST25, and SP9 combined with the Yuan acupoints help to regulate the Zang-fu organs, benefit the spleen and stomach, and improve sleeping. The GV unblocking protocol of Prof. Gao Yun-chun adds GV acupoints to the point prescription for several reasons. The researchers note that the GV connects directly with the brain, governs all yang meridians, and connects the five Zang and six Fu organs either directly or indirectly. According to TCM theory, obstruction of qi and blood flow in the GV may cause yin, yang, and Zang-Fu imbalances resulting in insomnia. Consequently, needling the GV focuses on clearing obstructions impeding the free flow of qi in the meridians, dispersing yang qi, and facilitating the distribution of nutrients.

The researchers note that the guiding treatment principle for the GV acupoint choices is to “harmonize yin and yang and improve sleep.” Baihui (GV20) is selected because it is a meeting acupoint of the Bladder Foot-Taiyang channel with the GV. GV20 functions to “tranquillize the mind.” Shenting (GV24) is chosen for its specific function to treat both insomnia and palpitations. GV24 is notable as the meeting point of the GV with the Bladder Foot-Taiyang and Stomach Yangming channels. The research indicates that the combination of GV20 with GV24 harmonizes Ying and Wei qi (nutrient and defensive qi), tranquilizes the mind, strengthens kidney qi and jing (essence), and more strongly treats insomnia. To reinforce the functions of these acupoints, Anmian (EX-HN14), Sishencong (EX-HN1), and Fengchi (GB20) are added

The acupoint prescription had greater positive patient outcomes than estazolam for the improvement of sleep quality. In addition, the total recovery rate and marked effect rate were greater in the acupuncture group than in the estazolam group

References:

Wang YJ, Zhang LH, Han YX, Li PP. Efficacy observation on Governor Vessel-unblocking and mind-calming acupuncture for insomnia. Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science. 2016 Jul 1;14(4):274-8.

Jiang S, Di Z, Fu WB. On sequence of acupuncture points in acupuncture treatment. Zhongyi Zazhi, 2012, 53(7): 620-622.

Expert consensus panel on definition, diagnosis and drug therapy for insomnia. Expert consensus (draft) on definition, diagnosis and drug therapy for insomnia. Chin J Neurol, 2006, 39(2): 141-143

HealthCMi. 2016. Acupuncture Beats Drug For Insomnia Treatment. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1672-acupuncture-beats-drug-for-insomnia-treatment. [Accessed 30 September 2016].

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