Research Highlights

Traditional Chinese medicine: The stronger the better

Subject Categories: Clinical medicine

Published online 3 April 2013


Acupuncture with strong stimulation produces better outcomes in the treatment of Bell's palsy

Felix Cheung

© (2013) Thinkstock

Acupuncture is an effective treatment for back pain and arthritis. It is also a common treatment for Bell's palsy, a form of paralysis that affects one side of the face.

According to traditional Chinese medicine theory, a patient must feel the sensation of numbness or electrical tingling at the needling site, or deqi, to obtain the maximum effect from acupuncture. Improper needle insertion or inadequate stimulation may decrease the likelihood of successful treatment.

Wei Wang at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan and co-workers have now tested this long-held belief. The researchers invited 338 patients with Bell's palsy to participate in a randomized controlled trial. In the deqi group, they performed acupuncture treatment using various manipulation techniques (for example, rotating and shaking the needles), whereas in the control group, they performed acupuncture treatment without using any manipulation technique.

After six months, the researchers assessed the degree of facial paralysis and found that patients in the deqi group displayed better facial function than those in the control group. Approximately 90% of the patients in the deqi group completely recovered from the condition, whereas only 70% of the patients in the control group completely recovered.

The results suggest that deqi is important in producing better outcomes in acupuncture treatment. The researchers believe deqi and its related techniques are important in acupuncture practice and should be included in clinical guidelines.


  1. Xu, S. B. et al. Effectiveness of strengthened stimulation during acupuncture for the treatment of Bell palsy: a randomized controlled trial. Can. Med. Assoc. J. 10.1503/cmaj.121108 (2013).