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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 612464, 11 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nep239
Original Article

Acupuncture to Treat Primary Dysmenorrhea in Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial

1Centre for Complementary Medicine Research, University of Western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
2School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health, Australian Research Centre for Health for Women and Babies, The University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
3School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health, The University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
4Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
5School of Population Health and Clinical Practice, The University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Received 24 June 2009; Accepted 12 December 2009

Copyright © 2011 Caroline A. Smith et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

We examined the effectiveness of acupuncture to reduce the severity and intensity of primary dysmenorrhea. A randomized controlled trial compared acupuncture with control acupuncture using a placebo needle. Eligible women were aged 14–25 years with a diagnosis of primary dysmenorrhea. Women received nine sessions of the study treatment over 3 months. The primary outcomes were menstrual pain intensity and duration, overall improvement in dysmenorrhea symptoms and reduced need for additional analgesia, measured at 3, 6 and 12 months from trial entry. A total of 92 women were randomly assigned to the intervention (acupuncture 𝑛 = 4 6 and control 𝑛 = 4 6 ). At 3 months although pain outcomes were lower for women in the acupuncture group compared with the control group, there was no significant difference between groups. Women receiving acupuncture reported a small reduction in mood changes compared with the control group, relative risk (RR) 0.72, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.53–1.00, 𝑃 = . 0 5 . Follow-up at 6 months found a significant reduction in the duration of menstrual pain in the acupuncture group compared with the control group, mean difference –9.6, 95% CI –18.9 to –0.3, 𝑃 = . 0 4 , and the need for additional analgesia was significantly lower in the acupuncture group compared with the control group, RR 0.69, 95% CI 0.49–0.96, 𝑃 = . 0 3 , but the follow-up at 12 months found lack of treatment effect. To conclude, although acupuncture improved menstrual mood symptoms in women with primary dysmenorrhea during the treatment phase, the trend in the improvement of symptoms during the active phase of treatment, and at 6 and 12 months was non-significant, indicating that a small treatment effect from acupuncture on dysmenorrhea may exist. In the study, acupuncture was acceptable and safe, but further appropriately powered trials are needed before recommendations for clinical practice can be made.