Does integrative medicine enhance balance in aging adults? Proof of concept for the benefit of electroacupuncture therapy in Parkinson's disease

Nima Toosizadeh, Hong Lei, Michael Schwenk, Scott J. Sherman, Esther Sternberg, Jane Mohler, Bijan Najafi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Background: Postural balance and potentially fall risk increases among older adults living with neurological diseases, especially Parkinson's disease (PD). Since conventional therapies such as levodopa or deep brain stimulation may fail to alleviate or may even worsen balance, interest is growing in evaluating alternative PD therapies. Objective: The purpose of the current study was to assess improvement in postural balance in PD patients following electroacupuncture (EA) as an alternative therapy. Methods: 15 aging adults (71.2 ± 6.3 years) with idiopathic PD and 44 healthy age-matched participants (74.6 ± 6.5 years) were recruited. The PD participants were randomly assigned (at a ratio of 2:1) to an intervention (n = 10) or to a control group (n = 5). The intervention group received a 30-min EA treatment on a weekly basis for 3 weeks, while the control group received a sham treatment. Outcomes were assessed at baseline and after the final therapy. Measurements included balance assessment, specifically the ratio of medial-lateral (ML) center-of-gravity (COG) sway to anterior-posterior (AP) sway (COGML/AP) and ankle/hip sway during eyes-open, eyes-closed, and eyes-open dual-task trials, the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), as well as quality of life, concerns for fall, and pain questionnaires. Results: No difference was observed for the assessed parameters between the intervention and the control group at baseline. After treatment, an improvement in balance performance was observed in the intervention group. Compared with the healthy population, PD patients prior to treatment had larger COGML/AP sway with more dependency on upper-body movements for maintaining balance. Following EA therapy, COGML/AP sway was reduced by 31% and ankle/hip sway increased by 46% in the different conditions (p = 0.02 for the dual-task condition). The clinical rating revealed an overall improvement (p < 0.01) in mentation, behavior, and mood (UPDRS part I, 49%), activities of daily living (UPDRS part II, 46%), and motor examination (UPDRS part III, 40%). There was a significant reduction (p < 0.02) in the specific items regarding UPDRS fall status (67%) and rigidity (48%). Changes were small and nonsignificant in the controls (p > 0.29). Conclusions: This pilot study demonstrates improvement in rigidity and balance following EA. These preliminary results suggest EA could be a promising alternative treatment for balance disturbance in PD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-14
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 25 2015


  • Acupuncture
  • Ankle strategy
  • Anterior-posterior sway
  • Hip strategy
  • Medial-lateral sway
  • Parkinsonism
  • Postural control
  • Rigidity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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