Medical Research

Effect of acupuncture on heart rate variability in primary dysmenorrheic women

Kristen Sparrow • April 11, 2011

Dysmenorrhea in layman’s terms is menstrual cramps, or menstrual pain. I was not aware that dysmenorrhea had an autonomic component. They used a simple point selection and a simple cross-over design. The subjects had one month with sham acupuncture (SA) and then one month with real acupuncture (RA) or vice versa and the results were compared. They do report the changes in the HRV between sham and real acupuncture, but not whether the patients improved on a pain scale or not. So, to me, this is an interesting study because of the definitive differences in HRV measurements, but whether it would be super interesting to dysmenorrhea sufferers is questionable.

To read more about acupuncture, HRV, and my practice please click here.

Effect of acupuncture on heart rate variability in primary dysmenorrheic women.
Am J Chin Med. 2011;39(2):243-9.
Kim E, Cho JH, Jung WS, Lee S, Pak SC.

Department of Gynecology, College of Oriental Medicine, Kyung Hee University Seoul, South Korea.

Primary dysmenorrhea is a common gynecological complaint among young women that is related to an autonomic nervous system (ANS) disturbance. Acupuncture is one of several therapeutic approaches for primary dysmenorrhea, since it can modulate ANS function. The heart rate variability (HRV) parameters such as high frequency (HF), low frequency (LF) and LF/HF ratio are generally accepted tools to assess ANS activity. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of acupuncture applied at Hegu (LI4) and Sanyinjiao (SP6) points on HRV of women with primary dysmenorrhea during the late luteal phase. The experimental design was a crossover and patient-blinded procedure. All subjects participated in Sham (SA) and Real Acupuncture (RA) procedure, separated by one month, in a crossover sequence. The participants included 38 women (mean age 22.3 years; weight 53.8 kg; height 162.6 cm). HRV measurement was 15 min before and 15 min after an acupuncture procedure. The RA procedure was performed at two bilateral acupoints, but needles were inserted subcutaneously to the acupuncture points for the SA procedure. The RA induced a significant decrease in LF/HF ratio and a significant increase in the HF power, while SA treatment caused a significant increase only in the HF power. Manual acupuncture at bilateral acupoints of LI4 and SP6 may play a role in dysmenorrhea treatment with autonomic nervous system involvement.