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Acupuncture for nasal congestion: A prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical pilot study

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Nasal congestion is one of the most common complaints dealt with in otorhinolaryngology. Side effects of decongestants are frequently seen in patients with chronic nasal congestion. This leads to an increasing demand of alternative treatments such as acupuncture. Future studies on acupuncture should aim at objectifying effects by both physical measuring and double blinding. Therefore, we were interested in whether these effects can potentially be measured as increase in nasal airflow (NAF) in ventus (“wind”) disease of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).


Twenty-four patients with a history of nasal congestion due to hypertrophic inferior turbinates or chronic sinusitis without polyposis were additionally diagnosed according to the Heidelberg model of TCM. They were asked to score the severity of their nasal congestion on a visual analog scale (VAS). The acupuncturist was blinded according to the Heidelberg blinding assay. NAF was measured by using active anterior rhinomanometry (ARM). Specific verum acupoints according to the Chinese medical diagnosis were tested against nonspecific control acupoints. VAS and NAF were scored and measured before and 15 and 30 minutes after acupuncture.


Control acupuncture showed a significant improvement in VAS and a deterioration of NAF. Verum acupuncture showed highly significant improvements in VAS and NAF. In addition, verum acupuncture improved NAF and VAS significantly over time.


Our control and verum acupoints fulfill the condition of a control and verum treatment, respectively. Measuring NAF by RRM and scoring VAS are possible and reflect acupuncture effects in vivo.
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Keywords: Active anterior rhinomanometry (RRM); Heidelberg blinding assay; Heidelberg model; acupuncture; chronic sinusitis without polyposis; hypertrophy of inferior turbinate; nasal airflow (NAF); nasal congestion; traditional Chinese medicine (TCM); visual analogue scale (VAS)

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany. [email protected]

Publication date: 01 November 2009

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