Research suggests that acupuncture may be able to clinically reduce symptoms of anxiety in this patient population.
Real acupuncture (RA) may help to treat anxiety in Parkinson disease (PD) patients, according to research published in JAMA Open Network. The study data demonstrated that RA had higher clinical improvement for anxiety than sham acupuncture (SA). RA patients also had a noticeable improvement in quality of life (QOL), along with positive effects on their overall condition.
“This study’s results suggest that acupuncture with clinical monitoring may alleviate anxiety of patients with Parkinson disease,” wrote the study authors.
Anxiety affects nearly one third of all PD patients. It is associated with worse wellbeing and can impact other patients who suffer from movement disorders.
The study objective was to explore effective anxiety treatments for PD with minimal adverse effects (AEs). Researchers decided to test the efficacy of acupuncture treatment in particular, which had been previously identified to be as effective as certain behavioral therapies. This study is the first randomized clinical trial to assesses acupuncture for the treatment of anxiety in PD patients.
The team performed an 8-week, randomized (1:1) and double-blind clinical trial to compare the efficacy of RA and SA in 70 patients—they were enrolled from the Parkinson clinic of a hospital in China. The study was conducted between June 20, 2021 and February 26, 2022, with 64 patients making it to the April 15, 2022 follow-up.
Primary outcome was scored on the Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAM-A), which evaluates degree of anxiety. From baseline, the mean reduction of the HAM-A score also dropped 4.38 points among RA patients. The mean reduction in HAM-A score was even greater at follow-up at 7.03 points lower than SA patients.
Secondary outcomes were based on the scores of the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) and the 39-item Parkinson Disease Questionnaire (PDQ-39). These tests measure QOL, which can be worsened by anxiety.
“After follow-up, the decrease in the UPDRS I score and PDQ-39-EW score of the RA group was significantly greater than the decrease in the score of the SA group,” wrote the study authors.
Additional secondary outcomes measured adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) serum levels and cortisol (CORT). The team observed that serum ACTH levels were lower in the RA group, suggesting that RA therapy can ameliorate anxiety symptoms in PD patients.
Limitations of the study include potential biases in using the HAM-A scoring method and a lack of participant diversity due to all participants being Chinese patients. Because of the latter limitation, the results of the study findings may not accurately reflect results among other ethnic groups. Further, no patient experienced severe AEs with this treatment.
“This study found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for anxiety in patients with PD,” wrote the study authors. “These findings suggest that acupuncture may enhance the wellbeing of patients who have Parkinson disease and anxiety.”
Fan, Jing-qi, Lu Wei-jing, Tan Wei-qiang, et al. Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Anxiety Among Patients With Parkinson Disease. September 21, 2022. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(9):e2232133. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.32133