Medical Research

HRV and Trigger Point Acupuncture

Kristen Sparrow • March 20, 2014


Goddess Statue
Ancient Medicine Made Modern

It occurs to me that perhaps my audience doesn’t exactly follow why I am so interested (as a western trained physician)  in Heart Rate Variability (HRV), or even acupuncture for that matter.  This is how I see it.  Acupuncture somehow functions to calm the nervous system. This has many beneficial outcomes.  It reduces pain, improves mood and immunity.  It also causes brain changes, (complicated) and increases endogenous opiates.  These sort of tests, brain scans, fmri, blood levels or brain levels of different neurotransmitters are expensive, invasive, and appropriate for only certain types of studies.
Why I try to hard to delineate a workable system for using HRV (a noninvasive stress test) with acupuncture is that it could be a proxy for more these more invasive and expensive tests.  If, and it turns out to be a huge “if,”  there was a workable HRV protocol to apply to the clinic and research setting, it would speed the studies.
So far, I have determined that HRV increases, and stress levels decline during treatment in patients who get benefit from acupuncture. Those who are not likely to benefit, do not see this decline in their stress levels during treatment.  I have seen this, now, thousands of times.
What I am trying to determine now, is if, over time (weeks and months), I can show a decrease in patients baseline stress levels, or in their response to needling as a function of HRV.  I am uniquely positioned to do this, since most, actually all, of the studies that have been done  to date are short term.
So that’s one part.
The other part, of course, is to improve treatment.  There are hundreds of studies comparing de qi, electro of different frequencies, versus manual, point selection etc… What my real interest is in is whether there is a totally different approach to acupoint stimulation.  I will leave it there since it’s a trade secret!!
Interesting article from Japan looking at strong stimulation, trigger point acupuncture versus standard. They were nice enough to send me the full transcript
acupmed-2013-010440.full Kitagawa HRV and trigger points