The acute effects of acupuncture upon autonomic balance in healthy subjects

Rosann J. Carpenter, James Dillard, Adrienne S. Zion, Gregory J. Gates, Matthew N. Bartels, John A. Downey, Ronald E. De Meersman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Restoration of the sympathovagal (S/V) balance, involving a lowering of sympathetic and/or an augmentation of vagal modulation or a combination of both is associated with improvements in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. To determine whether acupuncture exerts a favorable influence upon resting blood pressure and sympathovagal balance, a single-blind cross-over investigation was used to study the acute effects of acupuncture on S/V balance in normal healthy subjects. The ANOVA revealed a significant lowering of the sympathovagal balance (LF:HF) during rest for the acupuncture treatment from pre (4 ± 2 nu) to post (2.2 ± 1.8 nu)(p < 0.05). No such change was seen during sham treatment. The ANOVA revealed significant differences in systolic blood pressures during rest (114 ± 4 vs. 108 ± 3 mmHg) for the acupuncture treatment (p < 0.05). No significance was found during the sham treatment. The ANOVA failed to reveal any significant improvements in sympathovagal balance during the sustained isometric contraction. The clinical significance of these findings appears to suggest that acupuncture treatment might be beneficial in lowering blood pressure at rest. Furthermore, the lowering of the blood pressure might be in part due to a lowering of the sympathovagal balance. These findings are of importance since acupuncture treatments are non-pharmacological and have no known detrimental side-effects. This investigation employed healthy volunteers, yet acupuncture has been found to have more potent effects in animal models of hypertension and or in the presence of an autonomic imbalance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)839-847
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Chinese Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Acupuncture
  • Sympathovagal Balance
  • Systolic Blood Pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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