Medical Research

Acupuncture, HRV and Insomnia

Kristen Sparrow • April 08, 2012

Another HRV study by Litscher and his team in China. A previous post, “Part I” described HRV analysis in rats for seizures. This article explores acupuncture in patients with insomnia. Unfortunately they don’t report on how the patients’ insomnia symptoms responded(?) There is a link to the full paper here. At the end of the journal article in the discussion they say

The significance of our data indicates that maybe differences exist between those patients who respond to acupuncture insomnia therapy and those that do not. Further research into the use of electrocardiogram and other physiological parameters to stratify response to acupuncture therapeutic interventions is warranted.

This is exactly the point of my own research; to try to better guide treatment by adding HRV outcomes to symptomatic outcomes. Litscher merely mentions this as a possibility, but does not reveal how his data might show this.
He also says in the article that he chose to do single point acupuncture (Heart 7),unusual in clinical practice, so that he would have a point of comparison for future studies with single point auricular acupuncture.
One final point is that he found no change in LFR/HFR ratio during acupuncture, which is counter to my own findings and those of Backer, but consistent with those of Huang. As always, “more study needed.”
More on my practice here.

Sino-European transcontinental basic and clinical high-tech acupuncture studies-part 2: acute stimulation effects on heart rate and its variability in patients with insomnia.
Litscher G, Cheng G, Cheng W, Wang L, Niu Q, Feng X, Gaischek I, Kuang H. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:916085. Epub 2012 Mar 4.
Research Unit of Biomedical Engineering in Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine and Stronach Research Unit for Complementary and Integrative Laser Medicine, TCM Research Center Graz, Medical University of Graz, 8036 Graz, Austria.
This second part of a series of Sino-European high-tech acupuncture studies describes the first clinical transcontinental teleacupuncture measurements in patients with insomnia. Heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) measurements in 28 patients (mean age ± SD: 41.9 ± 14.6 years) were performed under standardized conditions in Harbin, China, and the data analysis was performed in Graz, Austria. Similar to the first part of the series, the electrocardiograms (ECGs) were recorded by an HRV Medilog AR12 system during acupuncture of the Shenmen point (HT7) on the left hand. HR decreased significantly (P < 0.001) during and after acupuncture stimulation of the HT7 acupuncture point. Total HRV increased significantly (P < 0.05) immediately after acupuncture stimulation, but there was no long-lasting effect. The values of the low-frequency (LF) and high-frequency (HF) band increased significantly after the stimulation compared to baseline values; however, the LF/HF ratio showed no significant changes. Together with the results of previous studies, the present results can serve as a solid basis for further development of acupressure or acupuncture stimulation equipment for complementary use in treating insomnia.