Acupuncture has long been used to help autoimmune disorders such as Sjögren’s Syndrome. A recent study shows that acupuncture helps to reduce dry mouth in patients with Sjögren’s Syndrome. It also reduced the circulating pro-inflammtory chemicals called cytokines which are factors in the development of the disease.
In this blog post, I will discuss the details of a recent clinical trial exploring the effects of acupuncture on Sjögren’s Syndrome as well as how acupuncture approaches this complex condition.
What is Sjögren’s Syndrome?
Sjögren’s Syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the body’s moisture-producing glands. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. In the case of Sjögren’s Syndrome, the primary targets are the salivary and tear glands, leading to the characteristic symptoms of dry mouth and dry eyes.
Aside from the hallmark symptoms of dry mouth and dry eyes, Sjögren’s Syndrome can also cause symptoms such as joint pain, persistent cough, fatigue, and even systemic complications depending on the organs involved. The wide range of potential symptoms can make the disease challenging to diagnose.
Current treatment approaches primarily focus on managing symptoms and maintaining the function of the affected glands. This might involve artificial tears or saliva substitutes, medications to stimulate saliva production, or drugs to manage systemic symptoms like joint pain and fatigue. Despite these treatments, many individuals with Sjögren’s Syndrome continue to experience significant symptoms that impact their quality of life, underscoring the need for new therapeutic approaches like acupuncture.
Acupuncture for Sjögren’s Syndrome: Theoretical Basis
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine understand health as a state of balance. It works by bringing the body back to a state of balance. Sjögren’s Syndrome most often is caused by yin deficiency leading to dryness and heat.
In TCM, the concepts of Yin and Yang represent two complementary forces that maintain the balance of the body’s functions and processes. Yin represents aspects such as cold, dark, rest, and fluids in the body, whereas Yang represents heat, light, activity, and dryness.
Sjögren’s Syndrome, with its hallmark symptoms of dry mouth and eyes, is seen in TCM as a result of a Yin and blood deficiency. This deficiency disturbs the balance of Yin and Yang, leading to an excess of Yang, which manifests as dryness and heat. Heat is often correlated with inflammation.
Acupuncture treatments restore the body’s balance by encouraging the development of yin and blood and clearing the heat away.
Acupuncture Reduces Dry mouth and Inflammation in Sjögren’s Syndrome
A recent clinical trial examined acupuncture’s effects on Sjögren’s Syndrome for dry mouth and also examined the circulating inflammatory chemicals associated with the disease.
The protocol included eight weeks of acupuncture with three visits for the first four weeks and twice a week for the next four weeks for a total of twenty visits.
The acupuncture points included:
- Waiguan (SJ5)- bilateral
- Zhaohai (KI6)- bilateral
- Chengjiang (RN24)
- Lianquan (RN23)
- Taiyang (EXHN5) bilateral
- Cuanzhu (BL2) bilateral
- Sizhukong (SJ23) bilateral
- Jiache (ST6) bilateral
During the treatment, twirling, lifting, and thrusting techniques were used to elicit Deqi needle sensation.
The results of the eight week treatment course showed that acupuncture significantly improved dry mouth symptoms associated with Sjögren’s Syndrome. It also reduced levels of IL-17 and TNF-ɑ, two pro-inflammatory cytokines, in the blood of the patients by the end of the treatment.
These findings indicate that acupuncture provides Sjögren’s Syndrome patients relief for some of their most troubling symptoms.
I have had very good success treating patients with Sjögren’s Syndrome to reduce dryness, pain, and improve their energy with acupuncture and herbs. It is wonderful to see clinical research confirming my clinical experience. I hope to see further research to fully understand these mechanisms and validate the clinical efficacy of acupuncture in larger patient populations.
Acupuncture treatment can be used along side convention medicine to treat dryness, fatigue, and pain associated with Sjögren’s Syndrome.
An acupuncture treatment course for Sjögren’s Syndrome will be customized to the patient’s specific needs. The treatments are usually given 1-2 times per week for 3-4 months. During each acupuncture session, you may feel relaxed or a tingly feeling. Each session typically lasts from 20 to 30 minutes.
We will regularly be checking in to monitor your progress. Many patients also will take Chinese herbal medicine to further boost yin and reduce heat, or Tui Na massage to enhance energy flow and relief from joint pains.
Once initial symptoms are managed, we will develop a maintenance program to keep your symptoms at bay.
The exploration of acupuncture as a potential treatment modality for Sjögren’s Syndrome marks a significant stride towards widening our therapeutic repertoire for this challenging autoimmune disorder. The recent clinical trial offers promising results, demonstrating not only the symptomatic relief that acupuncture could provide but also its possible role in modulating the underlying inflammatory responses associated with Sjögren’s Syndrome.
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- Liu, R., Zhang, Y., Li, K., Xu, H., Cheng, Z., Pang, F., . . . Jiang, Q. (2023). Effect of acupuncture on regulating IL-17, TNF-a and AQPs in Sjogren’s syndrome. Oral Dis. doi:10.1111/odi.14680