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Effectiveness of strengthened stimulation during acupuncture for the treatment of allergic rhinitis: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Qing Chen1, Qinxiu Zhang2*, Luyun Jiang2, Xinrong Li1, Yang Liu1, Yan Xie2, Shan Mu2, Ying Liu2, Xiaopei Wang1, Yunzhi Yu1 and Min Li1

Author Affiliations

1 Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, No.37 Twelve Bridge Road, Chengdu, Sichuan Province 610072, China

2 Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery of the Teaching Hospital of Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, No.39 Twelve Bridge Road, Chengdu, Sichuan Province 610072, China

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Trials 2014, 15:301  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-15-301

Published: 24 July 2014



The traditional Chinese theory of acupuncture emphasizes that the intensity of acupuncture must reach a threshold to generate de qi (a specific and compound sensation during the acupuncture), which is necessary to achieve the best therapeutic effect. However, the notion that de qi must be achieved for maximum benefit has not been confirmed by modern scientific evidence. This study aims to compare the efficacy of acupuncture with either strong (intended to elicit de qi) or weak stimulation among patients with allergic rhinitis.


This study compares real versus sham acupuncture in 140 patients with a history of persistent allergic rhinitis (PER) or intermittent allergic rhinitis (IAR) and with a positive skin prick test (SPT). The trial will be conducted in the Teaching Hospital of Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (China). In the study, patients will be randomly assigned into two groups by computer-generated randomization and assessed prior to treatment. They will then receive 12 sessions of treatments for 4 consecutive weeks and have a follow-up phase lasting 12 weeks. The main outcome measures include the primary and secondary indicators. Primary indicators are subjective symptoms scores as evaluated by visual analogue scales (VAS), rhinoconjunctivitis quality of life questionnaires (RQLQ), and the Modified Massachusetts General Hospital acupuncture sensation scale, Chinese version (C-MMASS). The secondary indicators are the results of laboratory examinations, such as serum allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (sIgE) nasal inflammatory cells counts (mast cells, eosinophils, and T cells), and nitric oxide concentration in nasal excretion. The use of anti-allergic medication will also be recorded as one of the secondary indicators. Furthermore, adverse events will be recorded and analyzed. Intention-to-treat analysis (ITT) and per-protocol (PP) analysis will be performed to test and verify the results in this trial.


The results of this trial will demonstrate the efficacy of using acupuncture to treat allergic rhinitis and verify whether the effectiveness of acupuncture is related to the needle sensation de qi.

Trial registration

Chinese Clinical Trial Registry: ChiCTR-TRC-13003594 (registered on 16 August 2013, and the first patient was randomized on 27 September 2013).

Allergic rhinitis; De qi; Randomized controlled trial