Acupuncture has increasingly been used to treat many conditions, including psychiatric disorders and immunological-related disorders. However, the effects of acupuncture as stress management and immune functions in the elderly are largely unclear. Here we investigated the effects of acupuncture on stress-related psychological symptoms and cellular immunity in young adults and elderly subjects. The acupuncture treatment consisted of six sessions and the procedures included the insertion of needles at bilateral acupoints LI4, SP6 and ST36. Psychological variables (depression, anxiety and stress) were investigated by means of self-assessment inventories. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated and cultured in vitro to measure mitogen-induced T-cell proliferation as well as cellular sensitivity to dexamethasone. All data were assessed before and after the intervention. Acupuncture was able to significantly reduce depression (p<0.001), anxiety (p<0.001) and stress (p<0.001) scores. The intervention also increased T-cell proliferation, with greater intensity in the elderly group (p=0.004). No changes in cellular sensitivity to dexamethasone were observed following acupuncture. We conclude that acupuncture was efficient to attenuate the psychological distress as well as to increase an important feature of cellular immunosenescence.
Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.