Kidney disease, particularly chronic kidney disease (CKD), has become a global health concern, with increasing numbers of patients experiencing complex symptoms. Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine practice, has been gaining attention as a complementary therapy for managing kidney diseases and related complications. This blog explores the benefits of acupuncture in kidney disease, drawing insights from various scientific studies.


Acupuncture in Kidney Disease


By Majd Isreb, MD, FACP, FASN, IFMCP


Acupuncture involves inserting fine, metallic needles into the skin, which are then either manually manipulated by the practitioner’s precise hand movements or activated through electrical stimulation.

Acupuncture is a component of age-old Traditional Chinese Medicine. Practitioners in this field hold that there are over 2,000 specific points on the human body, interconnected by channels known as meridians. These meridians facilitate a flow of energy, termed Qi (“chee”), vital for overall well-being.

When this energy circulation is disrupted, it can lead to illness. Using acupuncture on designated points is believed to enhance Qi flow, thus promoting better health.

Research has demonstrated that acupuncture can be beneficial for treating multiple conditions. So, let’s discuss the role of acupuncture in kidney disease.




The role of acupuncture in kidney disease (CKD)

Enhancing renal function

According to a study conducted by Jung-Sheng Yu et al., on the benefit of acupuncture in kidney disease, acupuncture applied to specific “acupoints” for 12 weeks reduced creatinine levels and increased eGFR levels in CKD patients. These results suggest a potential role for acupuncture in enhancing renal function. This can be due to the effects of acupuncture on improving blood pressure and decreasing inflammation, as we will see below.


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Improving blood pressure and proteinuria

In a review article on the role of acupuncture in kidney disease, acupuncture was shown to have beneficial effects in controlling hypertension, reducing proteinuria, and correcting anemia in CKD patients. It was thought that acupuncture improved the regulation of the sympathetic system and activated various beneficial bioactive chemicals. These findings indicate the potential for acupuncture to play a role in the overall improvement of renal health.


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Acupuncture’s effects on symptoms and quality of Life in CKD

Another systematic review of nine studies analyzed the effects of different acupuncture techniques on CKD patients. The studies demonstrated significant benefits in improving quality of life, reducing fatigue, improving depression, and enhancing sleep quality.

Acupuncture techniques have also shown promise in controlling other complications of CKD, such as uremic pruritus (itching).




Anti-inflammatory actions of acupuncture in kidney disease

A comprehensive review addressed the anti-inflammatory actions of acupuncture. This is the most important benefit of acupuncture in kidney disease. Various studies demonstrated the immunosuppressive actions of acupuncture. Furthermore, the potential anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture, mediated through various mechanisms such as neuropeptide release and cytokine balance, may also be beneficial for kidney disease patients.

Another review suggested that the effects of acupuncture may be mediated via the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway.

The Bottom line on the benefit of acupuncture in kidney disease

The application of acupuncture in kidney diseases, especially CKD, offers promising avenues for enhancing renal function, managing symptoms, and improving quality of life. While current evidence demonstrates the potential benefits of acupuncture, more comprehensive and well-designed studies are needed to verify its efficacy and to explore the underlying mechanisms.

Nevertheless, acupuncture’s role as a complementary therapy in kidney disease care represents a valuable addition to conventional treatment approaches, potentially offering patients a holistic and integrative approach to managing their condition.