In summary, acupuncture treatments were carried out by me over a four week period in my clinical practice based in Paisley. Tiny acupuncture needles were inserted into specific points on each ear and participants were encouraged to sit quietly for the 20 minute duration of the treatment.
The good news is that there was a difference in stress levels for everyone taking part – stress levels reduced significantly regardless of which treatment they had or which treatment group they were in (group treatment or 1-2-1). For research/statistically-minded people the p-value was p<0.001. For non-statistically-minded people that’s quite a big improvement! Some participants’ stress scores came down by more than half… though perhaps not such good news for me as I was hoping that the study would show that it was the acupuncture that reduced the stress levels… Here are some of the comments participants made on their feedback forms at the end of the four week study:
“I can definitely report feeling more calm and more in control of my emotions. I have had situations over the last few weeks which would normally see me nearing breakdown, but I’ve managed to be calm and rational and able to relax”
“I still felt calm and relaxed – even when I was cooking and feeding 12 people on Christmas day – I would normally have high stress levels.”
“For the first time in a long time my Christmas was happy”
There are so many variables that can influence the results of research studies like this, not least the very subjective perception of stress levels. However, I’m more than happy that participants’ stress scores changed so significantly – especially in the busy four weeks leading up to Christmas. Just by volunteering to take part in the study, thinking about and having an awareness of their stress levels in order to ‘score’ them each week for the study did have a significant and positive impact on how participants felt and how they scored their stress levels over time. My experience tells me that this is that happens when people do stop and pay attention to how they are responding/ reacting to life and situations around them – that pause creates a space for new ways of coping, thinking and feeling to make themselves known. Even something as simple as taking a little time out to be still and just breathe… helps tremendously. So I would most definitely encourage participants and everyone else(!) to keep doing that.
My plan is to conduct a bigger research study later in the year with assistance from Strathclyde University. Studies like this are particularly (notoriously….) difficult to carry out. The gold standard would be a ‘double-blind’ study where neither the participant nor the acupuncturist know which treatment is being given and which group is being treated. This is definitely going to prove a challenge in future studies we carry out and I’m not so sure that it’s possible do this as a completely double-blind study.
I’d like to personally thank everyone who volunteered to take part and those who did take some time out during that busy time of year to assist me with my research. Personally, I was in my element as it is so important to me that the treatments I provide are effective. The results of this pilot study have given me lots to think about and given me some challenges for future studies!
If you would like more information about the study and/or the data analysis please don’t hesitate to contact me.