Acupunct Med 29:32-39 doi:10.1136/aim.2010.003053
  • Original papers

Improvement of menopausal symptoms with acupuncture not reflected in changes to heart rate variability

  1. Mikel Aickin2
  1. 1School of Nursing, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon, USA
  2. 2Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Cheryl L Wright, School of Nursing Portland Campus, 3455 SW US Veterans Road, SN-ORD, Portland, OR 97239, USA; cwright80{at}
  • Accepted 21 January 2011


Hypothesis Studies indicate that menopausal symptoms are relieved by acupuncture. Additional studies have suggested that acupuncture may affect heart rate variability (HRV). This paper reports a pilot study that investigated whether menopausal symptoms responded to acupuncture, and if changes in the spectral analysis of HRV, either suppression of low frequency or augmentation of high frequency bands, corresponded with symptom report.

Methods/interventions 12 healthy menopausal subjects were enrolled in this feasibility study. At baseline, subjects were experiencing moderately distressing menopausal symptoms, scoring at least 22 of a possible 44 points on the Menopausal Rating Scale. 10 traditional Chinese medicine-based, protocol acupuncture treatments were administered over a 4 week period, three times a week for 2 weeks, followed by twice a week for 2 weeks.

Outcome measures Menopausal Rating Scale questionnaire, 11 menopausal symptoms were evaluated on a zero to four severity scale via self-administered daily checklist for 4 weeks. Dynamic measures of HRV (autoregressive model) were captured before, during and after acupuncture at each session. Spectral analysis of the heart rate was used to compute power in the low frequency and high frequency bands, and their ratio.

Results All subjects complied fully with the protocol without any reported adverse events. While all 11 symptoms showed significant improvement, and one HRV measure changed, on average over the study period, there was essentially no support for a relationship between HRV, menopausal symptom report and acupuncture intervention.


  • CLW and MA contributed equally to this work.

  • Funding This work was supported by NIH T32 grant numbers T32 AT001287 and 5 T32 NR0007061.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the University of Arizona institutional review board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.