Skip to main content

Effects of acupuncture on skin and muscle blood flow in healthy subjects

Abstract

In 14 healthy female subjects, the effects of needle stimulation (acupuncture) on skin and muscle blood flow were investigated using a non-invasive custom-designed probe and photoplethysmography (PPG). In randomised order, 2–7 days apart, three modes of needle stimulation were performed on the anterior aspect of the tibia: superficial insertion (SF), insertion into the anterior tibial muscle (Mu), and insertion into the muscle including manipulation of the needle in order to elicit a distinct sensation of distension, heaviness or numbness (DeQi). Before intervention, the subjects rested for 30 min. After the intervention, the needle was left in situ for 20 min. Blood flow recordings were performed intermittently from 10 min prior to the intervention to the end of the trial. In a fourth session, serving as control, corresponding measurements were performed without any needle stimulation. Area under curve was calculated for 5-min periods prior to and after stimulation, respectively, and for the remaining 15-min period after stimulation. Compared to the control situation, muscle blood flow increased following both Mu and DeQi for 20 min, with the latter being more pronounced for the initial 5 min. Skin blood flow increased for 5 min following DeQi. However, no increase was found following SF. The DeQi stimulation was preceded by higher visual analogue scale ratings of anxiety prior to stimulation, which might have influenced skin blood flow to some extent. The results indicate that the intensity of the needling is of importance, the DeQi stimulation resulting in the most pronounced increase in both skin and muscle blood flow.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 4.

References

  • Altman DG (1999) Practical statistics for medical research. Chapman and Hall/CRC, London, pp 426–433

  • Andersson S, Lundeberg T (1995) Acupuncture – from empirism to scientific: functional background to acupuncture effects in pain and disease. Med Hypoth 45:271–281

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Baldry P (1998) Trigger point acupuncture. In: Filshie J, White A (eds) Medical acupuncture. A Western scientific approach. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh, pp 33–60

  • Blom M, Lundeberg T, Dawidson I, Angmar-Månsson B (1993) Effect of acupuncture on blood flow in patients suffering from xerostomia. Oral Rehabil 30:541–548

    Google Scholar 

  • Boutouyrie P, Corvisier R, Azizi M, Lemoine D, Laloux B, Hallouin M-C, Laurent S (2001) Effects of acupuncture on radial artery hemodynamics: controlled trials in sensitized and naive subjects. Am J Physiol 280:628–633

    Google Scholar 

  • Challoner A (1979) Photoelectric plethysmography for estimating cutaneous blood flow. In: Rolfe P (ed) Non-invasive physiological measurements, vol 1. Academic, London, pp 127–151

  • Cheng X (1987) Chinese acupuncture and moxibustion. Foreign Language Press, Beijing, p 326

  • Ernst M, Lee M (1986) Sympathetic effects of manual and electrical acupuncture of the Tsusanli knee point: Comparison with the Hoku hand point sympathetic effects. Exp Neurol 94:1-10

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Futran ND, Brendan D, Stack C, Hollenbeak C, Scharf JE (2000) Green light photoplethysmography monitoring of free flaps. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 126:659–662

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Giltvedt J, Sira A, Helme P (1984) Pulsed multifrequency photoplethysmograph. Med Biol Eng Comput 22:212–215

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Häbler H-J, Wasner G, Jänig W (1997) Interaction of sympathetic vasoconstriction and antidromic vasodilatation in the control of skin blood flow. Exp Brain Res 113:402–410

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Jänig W, Lisney SJW (1989) Small diameter myelinated afferents produce vasodilatation but not plasma extravasation in rat skin. J Physiol (Lond) 415:477–486

    Google Scholar 

  • Jansen G, Lundeberg T, Samuelson U, Thomas M (1989a) Increased survival of ischaemic musculocutaneous flaps in rats after acupuncture. Acta Physiol Scand 135:555–558

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Jansen G, Lundeberg T, Kjartansson J, Samuelsson U (1989b) Acupuncture and sensory neuropeptides increase cutaneous blood flow in rats. Neurosci Lett 97:305–309

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Jenkins M (1990) A new standard international nomenclature. Acupunct Med 7:21–23

    Google Scholar 

  • Kamal A, Harness J, Irving G, Mearns A (1989) Skin photoplethysmography – a review. Comput Meth Prog Biomed 28:257–269

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kashiba H, Ueda Y (1991) Acupuncture to the skin induces release of substance P and gene-related peptide from peripheral terminals of primary neurones in rat. Am J Chin Med 19:189–197

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lindberg LG, Öberg PÅ (1991) Photoplethysmography. Part 2. Influence of light source wavelength. Med Biol Eng Comput 29:48–54

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Noguchi E, Ohsawa H, Kobayashi S, Shimura M, Uchida S, Sato Y (1999) The effect of electro-acupuncture stimulation on the muscle blood flow of the hindlimb in anesthetized rats. J Autonom Nerv Syst 75:78–86

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Sato A, Sato Y, Schmidt RF (1997) The impact of somatosensory input on autonomic functions. Rev Physiol Biochem Pharmacol 130:1–307

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Sato A, Sato Y, Shimura M, Uchida S (2000) Calcitonin gene-related peptide produces skeletal muscle vasodilation following antidromic stimulation of unmyelinated afferents in the dorsal roots in rats. Neurosci Lett 283:137–140

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Sugiyama Y, Xue YX, Mano T (1995) Transient increase in human muscle sympathetic nerve activity during manual acupuncture. Jpn J Physiol 45:337–345

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Thomas M, Lundeberg T (1994) Importance of modes of acupuncture in the treatment of chronic nociceptive low back pain. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand 38:63–69

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Wiederström E, Dyrehag L-E, Börglum-Jensen L, Åslund P, Venneberg B, Andersson S (1998) Pain threshold responses to two different modes of sensory stimulation in patients with orofacial muscular pain: psychological considerations. J Orofac Pain 12:27–34

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Willis WD (1999) Dorsal root potentials and dorsal root reflexes: a double-edged sword. Exp Brain Res 124:395–421

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Zhang Q, Lindberg LG, Kadefors R, Styf J (2001a) A non-invasive measure of changes in blood flow in the human anterior tibial muscle. Eur J Appl Physiol 84:448–452

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Zhang Q, Styf J, Lindberg LG (2001b) Effects of limb elevation and increased intramuscular pressure on human tibialis anterior muscle blood flow. Eur J Appl Physiol 85:567–571

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors want to thank Per Sveider and Bengt Ragnemalm for technical assistance. This work was supported by grants from the County Council in Östergötland, the Foundation for Acupuncture and Alternative Biological Treatment Methods, The Swedish Rheumatism Association and the National Swedish Board for Technical Development (project 98–06659).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Margareta Sandberg.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Sandberg, M., Lundeberg, T., Lindberg, LG. et al. Effects of acupuncture on skin and muscle blood flow in healthy subjects. Eur J Appl Physiol 90, 114–119 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-003-0825-3

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-003-0825-3

Keywords

  • Axon reflex
  • Needle stimulation
  • Non-invasive
  • Photoplethysmography (PPG)
  • Vasodilatation