New Help for Obstructive Sleep Apnea...Acupuncture? Really?!!!

Sleep Apnea?  Try Acupuncture

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious health issue with an enormous impact in the US and worldwide. Approximately 936 million adults, throughout the world, experience this disorder and in the US alone, the cost of diagnosing it and treating it was 12.4 billion dollars in 2015. The impact of OSA doesn’t stop there. For those suffering with it, it can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, and increased risk of motor vehicle accidents. It is also closely associated with increased cardio-vascular events, diabetes and cognitive decline. With these numbers, finding an affordable and effective way to treat OSA is imperative.

Currently, OSA is diagnosed through a sleep study and the common measurements for determining the severity of the condition include an Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI) which measures the number of incidence of apnea per night. The higher the number the more severe the condition. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), a survey of sleepiness factors a person experiences throughout the day is another measurement. And finally, the Saturated Oxygen level  (SaO2) is a measurement that indicates the amount of oxygen carried in the blood. When a person experiences periods of apnea this number goes down. Monitoring the SaO2 throughout the night indicates whether a person is receiving limited oxygen.

Current therapies for OSA are led by continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), and also include surgical procedures, weight loss and lifestyle interventions, and pharmacotherapy. While CPAP is typically affordable and effective, many people struggle with aspects of it. Fitting the mask properly, maintaining cleanliness and operation of the machine and supplies, struggling with side effects that include headaches, chest discomfort and a sense of suffocation all limit the number of people who are willing to stick with this remedy.

As an alternative, acupuncture has been found to reduce the hourly AHI and decrease the frequency of sleep disordered breathing events. It also has been show to decrease ESS scores and increase SaO2 measurements. All of these measurements seem to be on par with the effectiveness of CPAP. Surprisingly, this seems to be especially true in patients with moderate to severe OSA. And, acupuncture has no side effects that are specific to OSA. As far as cost, a typical ten week acupuncture protocol is on par with the lowest expense for CPAP. In one clinical case study, a ten week course of acupuncture elicited these results and maintained them for at least 15 months after the treatments were completed.

So, if you have been diagnosed with OSA and are looking for treatment, acupuncture seems to be a cost effective and beneficial addition to your treatment protocol.

Wang, L., Xu, J. Zhan, Y., and Pei, J, “Acupuncture for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”, BioMed Research International, Volume 2020, Article ID6972327, 2020.

Lisa C. Decatorsmith, L.Ac., MSOM
Practitioner of Eastern Medicine at Exhale Sinus, TMJ, Headache & Sleep