Case Studies

Acupuncture for Headache and Correlation with HRV: Clinical Case Study

Kristen Sparrow • June 23, 2014


I’ve been treating a 27 year old woman for headaches for a bit over 5 weeks.  She was having 4 to 5 headaches a week and once they started they would not let up throughout the day.  She has long standing nasal congestion and is extremely sensitive to needling.
For the most part her headaches have improved significantly almost disappearing entirely, though she has had one or two over the last week.   What follows in the first chart is her stress response in reaction to needling.  My sort of short hand protocol is to look at the first 5 minutes of LF/HF  to second 5 minutes LF/HF(a proxy for the relaxation response, down is more relaxed) after needle placement with the patient relaxing on the treatment bed for 20 minutes.  This stress or relaxation response to needling is instructive and revealing.  Though it might seem counterintuitive, there is often a rapid drop in stress after needling, especially in patients likely to respond to acupuncture.  But sometimes you also see a drop in the stress response over time looking at the entire session (20 minutes.)  And if there has been profound response, you may even detect a drop in the stress response in the brief monitoring period before needling begins.
Chart showing first 5 min LF/HF ratio versus second 5 min LF/HF ratioWhat you see here is, in general, a decrease from the first to second 5 minute period, a positive sign for this patient.  On 6.2.14, I added some ear acupuncture points, which seemed to have the effect of increasing her stress levels, so I didn’t repeat that.  On 6.19.2014 I added 7Ht to help with “spirit” and it produced a profound relaxation response.  What follows is her overall stress readings during treatment over time.
Ka.Pa.Lf overtimeAs you can see, there has been a nice decrease in her stress readings over time, corresponding to the decrease in the number of headaches.

Previous studies have shown this correlation before.