Introduction Acupuncture may have a role in the treatment of intermittent claudication of the cauda equina due to lumbar spinal canal stenosis. The aim of this study was to explore the possible physiological mechanisms.
Methods In a laboratory experiment, manual acupuncture was performed at a point adjacent to the sixth lumbar vertebra of 13 animals and its effect on sciatic nerve blood flow was measured using a laser Doppler flowmetry. Simultaneously, changes in blood pressure and cardiac rate were observed. Each animal was stimulated four to eight times, making a total of 58 experiments.
Results Acupuncture stimulation did not produce consistent changes in sciatic nerve blood flow, with increased and decreased blood flow as well as no change in blood flow observed. Among the 58 individual experiments, sciatic nerve blood flow was increased in 33, reduced in 12, and unchanged in 13. Approximately half of the stimulations showed a correlation between blood flow and blood pressure change.
Conclusion Our results indicate that lumbar acupuncture stimulation can have an influence on sciatic nerve blood flow. The effect is dependent not only on blood pressure but also other factors, for example vasodilator and vasoconstrictor nerve activity. This mechanism may contribute to a clinical effect on intermittent claudication of the cauda equina.
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