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Acu in Practice: Support for patients with heart conditions

Welcome to Acu in Practice and Happy Valentine’s Day! It is appropriate that we look at the benefits of acupuncture on the heart this week. There are many research studies available now that support and prove that acupuncture can help to stabilize arrhythmias and affect blood pressure in a positive way, decreasing the work load and stress on the heart. Specifically, the acupuncture point PC 6 has been studied to a great degree. This classical point has been used for thousands of years to treat heart disease and complications. Through more recent Western research we now know that stimulating this point helps to regulate sympathetic nervous activity in the heart – activity that is to “excitable” in patients with cardiac problems. Needling PC 6 upregulates myocardial nitrous oxide – nitrous oxide reduces sympathetic nervous activity reducing providing vasodilation, reducing blood pressure, and reducing heart rate irregularity (1). This is just one acupoint that is useful in treating cardiac conditions.

Common TCM Heat Patterns and Western “translations”:

Heart Qi deficiency – heart weakness, heart muscle weakness, reduced cardiac contractility and output.

Heart Blood Deficiency – lack of volume or flow of blood to the Heart, heart muscle weakness/flaccid valves, reduced cardiac output and contractility, insomnia common

Heart Blood Stagnation – often a sequela of Heart Qi Deficiency or Heart Blood Deficiency, backflow of blood due to valve dysplasia, muscle in heart may be thickened, clots, dark blood.

*arrhythmia possible in all 3.

*patterns often found in combination.

For example, my patient Duke is a senior dog who has been managing his heart for his entire life. He was born with a congenital (structural) defect that was surgically corrected and with age also developed cardiac valve dysplasia. He has heart chamber enlargement, a Grade 4 systolic murmur (valve flaccidity), backflow of blood into the atrium, decreased contractility, and reduced cardiac output. Sometimes he has difficulty sleeping at night or wakes his owner up randomly. He is manifesting all 3 patterns in different ways at different times. But, the best part is that from the Western standpoint, he is virtually symptom free and living a very happy, normal life!

So, how do I treat Duke? I go through his clinical signs and physical symptoms at each appointment. I determine which TCM pattern(s) are most prominent at that time and I choose points to treat the most prominent pattern first, followed by points to offset secondary patterns and nourish other organs and substances that are affected such as the Liver, Kidney and Blood.

Acupoint Examples:

PC 6, HT 7

BL 14, BL 15, BL 17, BL 18, BL 23

SP 10, SP 6

CV 14

Chong Mai (extraordinary vessel): Open SP 4, Close PC 6– regulates Blood, nourishes Blood, helpful in patterns of Blood stagnation in the upper jiao and Heart Blood Stagnation.

GV 14 if manifesting Heat signs.

Duke has been receiving acupuncture for 5 years TODAY! He is 13 years old and only had to begin pharmaceutical support for his heart over this past year. His only change in symptoms was an infrequent cough, but based on his rechecks with the cardiologist, we decided adding medication to his integrative medicine plan was the safest option and the best way to keep him symptom free and living the happy life that he loves!

This post is created for informational use and not to replace veterinary medical advice.


(1) Li, Jing et al. The influence of PC6 on cardiovascular disorders: a review of central neural mechanisms. Acupuncture Medicine: 2012, March 1; 30(1): 47 – 50.

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