Is there a vasospasmolytic effect of acupuncture in patients with secondary Raynaud phenomenon?

J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2004 Sep;2(9):758-62. doi: 10.1046/j.1439-0353.2004.04729.x.


Background: Raynaud phenomenon (RP) is a vasospastic disorder of the digital arteries. Severe forms are found in patients with connective tissue diseases. Vasospasmolytic therapies are often limited by side effects such as orthostatic hypotension.

Patients/methods: We investigated therefore the effect of acupuncture in a double blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial in patients with secondary RP. The study was performed during the winter season by licensed acupuncturists weekly for 8 weeks (points chosen for the verum group: L.I.4, S.J.5, St.36, P.6, Du.20, Ex.28).

Results: An improvement was detected in both groups but there was no significant effect on clinical symptoms - based on patient diaries (average number of attacks before and after treatment: verum 1.9 +/- 2.0 vs. 1.4 +/- 1.7 attacks/ day and placebo 2.8 +/- 1.8 vs. 1.9 +/- 1.1; duration of attacks: verum 15 +/- 12 vs. 12 +/- 9 min. and placebo 31 +/- 17 vs. 16 +/- 6; n.s.) or on skin microcirculation, measured by local cold testing.

Conclusions: A specific vasospasmolytic effect of acupuncture could not be proven. This may be due to minor morphologic changes of supplying arteries or a severe local defect in endothelial function rather than a neurological disturbance which might be influenced by acupuncture. Much larger studies would be needed to identify the possible small benefit from acupuncture. If long-term relief is not obtained, it is unlikely to be cost-effective.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Adult
  • Blood Flow Velocity*
  • Female
  • Fingers / blood supply*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Raynaud Disease / therapy*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vasodilation