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Study Finds Acupuncture Beneficial for Obstructive Sleep Apnea Relief

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

A 2010 study entitled "Immediate Effect of Acupuncture on the Sleep Patterns of Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)" was published in the British medical journal  Acupuncture in Medicine. The study examined the value of acupuncture for immediate relief for patients suffering from moderate OSA.

OSA is a sleep disorder that causes breathing to start and stop multiple times throughout the night. When breathing ceases for at least 10 seconds at a time, it is referred to as a nocturnal episode. The flagship symptom of OSA is snoring, which can often be quite loud. The Apnoea-hypopnoea Index (AHI) is the gauge used to determine the severity of a patient's symptoms associated with OSA. Higher scores indicate a greater intensity of symptoms.

Researchers assigned 40 patients to four different groups. The first group received regular acupuncture administered manually. The second and third group received electroacupuncture (EA), which is the therapeutic use of electromagnetic currents applied directly to the acupuncture needles. The second group received EA at 2 Hz and the third group received EA at 10 Hz. The fourth group, as the control group, did not receive any treatment.

The researchers concluded that even one treatment of acupuncture greatly reduced the number of nocturnal episodes, and found that patients scored significantly lower on their AHI's as a result. This held true for the manual acupuncture group and for those in the EA at 10 Hz group. The control group and those who received EA at 2 Hz did not show statistically significant benefits. Acupuncture, when applied manually or with electromagnetic currents at 10 Hz, is a viable therapy for patients challenged with moderate obstructive sleep apnea.

Source: Freire, A. O., Sugai, G. C. M., Togeiro, S. M., Mello, L. E., & Tufik, S. (2010). Immediate effect of acupuncture on the sleep pattern of patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. Acupuncture in Medicine, 28(3), 115–119.

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About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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