August 26, 2015

Can Acupuncture Treat Vocal Cord Lesions?

According to Chinese researchers, acupuncture certainly can help with phono-traumatic vocal cord lesions (nodules, polyps, or chronic laryngitis). In their study, 123 patients with these pathologies were than divided into genuine acupuncture, fake acupuncture, and no acupuncture groups.

The genuine acupuncture group received needles in nine voice-related acupoints for 30 minutes, two times a week for 6 weeks, whereas the fake acupuncture group received blunted needles that merely stimulated the skin surface in the same points for the same frequency and duration. The acupuncture points were Hegu (large intestine-4) and Lieque (lung-7) on each wrist; Lianquan (conception vessel 23) under the chin and 2 Renyin (stomach-9) points in the neck; and Zhaohai (kidney-6) on each ankle.

Significant improvement in vocal function was obtained in both the genuine and fake groups, but not the no treatment group. Even more interestingly, significant decrease in the structural size of the vocal cord lesions were found only in the genuine acupuncture group, but not the fake and no treatment groups.

These findings suggest that acupuncture may be beneficial for the treatment of vocal cord lesions due to phono-trauma.

Of note, this is not the first study to show vocal improvement with acupuncture... there was one done in 2006 on 24 patients using Renyin (stomach-9), Lieque (lung-7), and Zhaohai (kidney-6) acupuncture locations. There were 10 treatment sessions, each lasting 30 minutes, over a 20 day period.

What neither of these studies can answer is whether the acupuncture directly helped resolve the vocal cord lesions... or did it help resolve/improve the underlying muscular biomechanics of the voicebox which than secondarily helped resolve the vocal cord lesions. Furthermore, bias is probably very difficult to eliminate in these types of studies.

Is Acupuncture Efficacious for Treating Phonotraumatic Vocal Pathologies? A Randomized Control Trial. Journal of Voice. Epub Aug 19, 2015.

A randomized treatment-placebo study of the effectiveness of acupuncture for benign vocal pathologies. Journal of Voice. 20:144-156, 2006
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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