Quantification of DeQi sensation by visual analog scales in healthy humans after immunostimulating acupuncture treatment

Am J Chin Med. 2007;35(5):753-65. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X07005247.


Acupuncture is the most popular component of traditional Chinese medicine in Western countries. However, the mechanisms of its effects remain unclear. The therapeutic effect of acupuncture appears when a sensation of DeQi is achieved. We previously reported that repeated, but not single acupuncture treatment affected leukocyte circulation and blood pressure in healthy young humans. The objective of this study was to quantify DeQi sensation by using visual analog scales (VASs) and, to test whether DeQi induction is an important factor for the therapeutic effects of acupuncture in the same cohort. After either acupuncture or sham-acupuncture (placebo) treatment, a questionnaire containing five individual VASs was given to subjects to evaluate their DeQi sensation, including numbness, pressure, heaviness, warmth, and radiating paraesthesia, respectively. A separate VAS to measure their levels of anxiety during the treatment was also included. Our results showed that acupuncture significantly induced higher VAS values for numbness, pressure, warmth, and radiating paraesthesia, but not for heaviness than the placebo across three treatment sessions. Additionally, acupuncture did not induce higher anxiety levels than the placebo. These data confirm that VAS is an objective and reliable way to quantify DeQi sensation and, indicate that DeQi is unique to verum acupuncture treatment. Furthermore, either acupuncture-induced therapeutic effects or DeQi sensation should not be attributed to the stress-mediated effects. In summary, the induction of DeQi in each treatment session is an important factor for the physiological outcomes of repeated acupuncture treatment, and VASs offer objective, an easy and reliable way to assess it.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Male
  • Pain Measurement*
  • Reference Values
  • Treatment Outcome