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A comparative study to assess the modulation of stress by shirodhara in healthy individuals by psychometric and heart rate variability measures

Siju Vikhnan,Kaviraja Udupa,Shivaram Varambally,Sudhakar Deverakonda,Sathyaprabha Talakad Narasappa.

Aim: Psychological stress is one of the risk factors for psychosomatic disorders and Shirodhara has been a standard treatment procedure for many such conditions in Ayurveda. Different liquid media are used for Shirodhara, which has not been explored extensively. In this study, we used heart rate variability (HRV) measures and subjective questionnaires for assessing the effects of Shirodhara with either takra (buttermilk) or jala (water) on psychological stress in normal healthy individuals.
Methods: Thirty six healthy male subjects aged between 25-36 years were recruited for this study (2017-18). The recruited subjects were assessed with baseline parameters: Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale (DASS-21), WHO well-being questionnaire and HRV assessment by recording resting electrocardiogram for 15 minutes. The subjects underwent continuous 5 day Shirodhara with medicated Takra (buttermilk, n=18) or Jala (water, n=18) during evening (3-5:30pm) at the Ayurveda facility. After 5 days, all the parameters were re-assessed.
Results: The subjects who underwent Shirodhara with Takra showed significant decrease in heart rate and root mean squared standard deviation (RMSSD). However, the age matched subjects who underwent Shirodhara with Jala did not show statistically significant changes in these parasympathetic parameters in HRV. On psychometric assessments: sleep quality, PSS and WHO well-being scales, subjects in both groups (Takra and Jala) showed significant improvement. DASS 21 scales showed improvement in Takra group only.
Conclusions: These results suggest that 5 days of Shirodhara leads to modulation in autonomic balance along with stress reduction and improved well-being, particularly in those who underwent Shirodhara with Takra.

Key words: Shirodhara; heart rate variability (HRV); Psychological stress; Relaxation; Perceived stress scale

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Journal of Contemporary Medical Education


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