Does Acupuncture Acutely Affect Heart Rate Variability in Horses?

Sonia S Le jeune, Crystal A. Williams, Bruno H Pypendop, Hajime Ohmura, James H Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


One of the mechanisms by which acupuncture (AP) exerts its purported effects involves modulation of the autonomic nervous system. Heart rate variability (HRV) noninvasively and quantitatively assesses autonomic nervous system activity. We hypothesized that AP treatment would acutely affect HRV by affecting autonomic tone. Eleven horses received three treatments in random order on different days: AP, placement of AP needles at eight AP points; sham AP (SAP), placement of eight AP needles at non-AP points; and control, no needles inserted. A Holter monitor recorded an electrocardiogram for 40minutes during each treatment session and was analyzed over three periods: 10minutes of initial "baseline" before AP and/or SAP, the first 10minutes of a 20-minute AP/SAP/control "treatment", and the first 10minutes "post"-AP/SAP/control. RR intervals were measured during each period after the electrocardiograms were inspected and filtered, and mean heart rate (HR), low-frequency (LF) power (0.01-0.07Hz), high-frequency (HF) power (0.07-0.6Hz), and LF-to-HF ratio were calculated for each period. Baseline HR decreased with sequential experiments. Within experiments, HF decreased and LF-to-HF ratio increased reciprocally with time. These results suggest that parasympathetic tone decreased over the course of the experiment, perhaps, because of the stress of being restrained. Consequently, HRV indices were either not acutely affected by AP over the intervals studied or autonomic responses to being restrained may have masked any autonomic response to AP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1084-1090
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Equine Veterinary Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


  • Acupuncture
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Equine
  • Parasympathetic nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Equine


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