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Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine ›› 2013, Vol. 11 ›› Issue (2): 101-105.doi: 10.3736/jintegrmed2013012

Special Issue: Acupuncture & Moxibustion

• Research Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of acupuncture treatment on natural killer cell activity, pulse rate, and pain reduction for older adults: An uncontrolled, observational study

Hidetoshi Moria, Hiroshi Kugea,b, Tim Hideaki Tanakaa(), Eiichi Taniwakia, Kazuyo Hanyuc, Tateyuki Morisawac   

  1. a. Department of Health, Faculty of Health Science, Tsukuba University of Technology, Tsukuba 305-0821,Japan
    b. Department of Anesthesiology, Osaka Medical College Hospital, Osaka 569-8686, Japan
    c. Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba 305-8572, Japan
  • Received:2012-08-10 Accepted:2012-10-15 Online:2013-03-10 Published:2013-03-15


The aim of this study was to examine the changes in natural killer (NK) cell activity, pulse rate, and pain intensity among older adults before and after acupuncture treatment.


Fifty-six individuals (16 males and 40 females), aged 60 to 82 years (mean age 72.4 ± 5.0), who were experiencing pain in the shoulder, low back, or knee, participated in the study. NK cell activity, leukocyte differentiation (granulocytes and lymphocytes), pulse rate, and blood pressure values were obtained. Pain intensity was evaluated by using the visual analog scale (VAS). The Wilcoxon test was used to analyze NK cell activity, leukocytes (granulocyte counts and granulocyte-to-lymphocyte ratio), and the VAS score in accordance with the location of pain complaints before and after acupuncture treatment.


NK cell activity decreased after acupuncture treatment for pain in the shoulder-pain and knee-pain groups. Further, the lymphocyte and granulocyte counts increased after acupuncture treatment for the shoulder-pain group. Pulse rate decreased for the shoulder-pain, low-back-pain, and knee-pain groups after acupuncture treatment. The VAS score decreased after acupuncture treatment for the shoulder-pain, low-back-pain, and knee-pain groups.


This study showed that in older adults, acupuncture treatment decreases pulse rate, relieves pain in the shoulder, low back, and knee, and reduces NK-cell activity.

Key words: Acupuncture therapy, Natural killer cells, Leukocytes, Heart rate, Pain measurement, Clinical trial

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