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Li-xing Zhuang, PhD: Acupuncture and Its Effects on Anxiety for Parkinson’s Patients

A discussion on the positive outcomes of acupuncture for Parkinson’s patients struggling with the effects of anxiety.

In an interview with HCPLive, Li-xing Zhuang, PhD, discussed his team’s research into the use of acupuncture to treat anxiety in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). The clinical trial’s results demonstrated positive effects for study participants by reducing anxiety levels.

The research team was led by Zhuang and Jing-qi Fan, PhD, of the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine.

For patients dealing with PD, anxiety is associated with several negative side effects including diminished concentration and an increase in tremors. Over 30% of PD patients report these symptoms, which led to Zhuang and his team exploring the subject.

“Many motor complications of PD, such as on-off phenomenon and dyskinesia, are easily affected by emotional changes,” Zhuang said. “Many patients said that after suffering from Parkinson's disease, their emotions became easily nervous and anxious, and they were difficult to control emotions, which led to a great impact on sleep, motor function and other aspects. Inspired by this, we initially suspect that the motor function of Parkinson's disease can be improved and the quality of life of the patient can be improved by improving the anxiety of the PD patient.”

Zhuang went on to describe the more surprising elements of his team’s findings regarding the study participants’ response.

“The remarkable achievement of this study is that it preliminarily confirmed that the improvement of anxiety is not only the improvement of emotion, but also conducive to the improvement of the overall situation of PD,” he said. “What surprised us was that the sham acupuncture group also had therapeutic effects in improving Parkinson's anxiety. However, the therapeutic effect will disappear over time”

Additionally, Zhuang noted that many experts regarding PD treatment guidelines have come to a consensus about the importance of anxiety in PD patients, classifying anxiety as one of Parkinson's non-motor symptoms.

However, Zhuang added that there are very few effective treatments available, noting that certain anti-anxiety drugs and anti-PD drugs produce certain antagonistic effects.

“In the future, we hope to see that PD patients with anxiety can not only reduce their anxiety symptoms, but also better recover their motor function, and even delay the progress of PD after receiving corresponding treatment,” he said. “To maintain a good quality of life, patients do not have to be in a state of tension every day, they can have a more positive attitude. Furthermore, we hope that more research can reveal the relationship between anxiety and PD, so as to prevent Parkinson's anxiety.”