Case Studies

Stress Reduction Stories Good and Bad by the Data

Kristen Sparrow • September 15, 2015


Modern goddess statue
Ancient Medicine Made Modern

Though we don’t know the end of this tale yet, it illustrates what the stress monitoring data may be telling us.
The questions I’m actively investigating are

  1. How does the patient’s nervous system  respond to the subtle stressor of needling?
  2. How does the patient’s stress level respond after needling on the table?
  3. What happens to the patient’s stress level respond over time?

First patient is a woman in her mid 20’s with stress and insomnia.  She works long hours and sought acupuncture treatment because she had a series of illnesses, she was worried about her immunity. She has responded well to acupuncture, is sleeping much better, feeling better and recommending acupuncture to her friends.
Em.Mi.9.15.15So how does she respond to needling?  The dark blue line is her response to needling during each treatment.  It starts out even dipping on the first visit.  The meaning of this could be poor resilience.  As the treatments go along her response to needling increases.  A more responsive system?
How does she respond on the table to needling? First visit, she doesn’t get much of a relaxation response at all. Second one she gets a jerky one, third visit, she sees a reduction and on the fourth, we see what we aim for. Stress levels plummet after needling.  Good sign of her systems’ reactivity.  She bounced around a bit, but ends up quite a bit lower than baseline.
How does she respond over time?   So in the few weeks of treatment, her baseline decreases, and her overall stress levels are lower.  A pretty picture.  (Correlation does not equal causation, and anecdotal evidence disclaimers in place.)
Patient 2 is a woman in her 50’s.  She is also having trouble sleeping, stress from work and family, and finds herself turning to alcohol to unwind.
Ma.Ma 9.15.15So here, we see the same pattern initially, a low response to needling, which can mean poor resilience, but she settles down with a stress level below baseline.  She felt well after treatment and slept great.
Second treatment she showed a more robust response to needling and then finally settled down after stress levels rose after needling only a bit below baseline. Not optimal.  Sure enough, she didn’t sleep well after this.  She was having family worries, too, but still.
The third treatment, she was positioned prone to deal with neck issues, so no data.
The fourth treatment, no data for baseline and needling because of machine malfunction, but as you can see she had a relaxation response, but overall her stress levels are quite a bit higher than on her initial visit.
So this is a worry, and I will watch this patient closely.  First Do No Harm, so some people just do not respond to acupuncture treatment, so we’ll see what happens with her going forward.  She is still willing to keep at it to see if further treatment might help.