Kristen Sparrow • July 01, 2016
This data is from a young woman with essential hypertension, seeking nonpharmacological solutions for her blood pressure. I’ve seen her for years, but am only including the last 6 months worth of data for simplicity.
Any condition that has a stress component, like hypertension, would benefit from acupuncture, but also from vagal enhancement. To that end I used the ear stim device to stimulate the auricular branch of the vagus nerve over various treatment sessions.
The first graph is her overall autonomic balance, or stress levels for each treatment. Arrows indicate the treatments where she received the ear stim. Noisy data, to be sure, but the trend is there, it seems to help to decrease her stress levels. Keep in mind that you need to ignore the black needling segment.
The second graph is of her parasympathetic only data. This should reflect her vagal activity, or “rest and digest.” We want to see this increase in a patient with hypertension. Agreed, that this effect is subtle, not dramatic, but still seems to indicate some augmentation.
The third graph is her sympathetic activity. Here lower values would benefit hypertension. I removed the baseline and needling segments in this case for clarity.
I still have questions about what makes a person respond to the earstim. Some patients do, but some see a decrease in their vagal activity. My hunch is that it has to do with “initial conditions” i.e. where their baseline autonomic balance is, and how resilient they are to stressors.