A new report reviews the evidence for acupuncture in the treatment of endometriosis-related pain. The paper, “Is acupuncture effective in the treatment of pain in endometriosis?“ appeared in the Journal of Pain Research.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue from the uterus grows in other regions of the body, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or the bowel. This can be a painful condition and affects more than 6.3 million American women and millions more worldwide. Better understanding of the factors that cause endometriosis could aid in the development of treatments and prevention.
Acupuncture has been used in pain management and could be an alternative strategy for the treatment of endometriosis-related pain.
Researchers Iréne Lund and Thomas Lundeberg summarized the available medical literature, focusing on clinical effects of acupuncture based on several pain measurements. Clinical studies, case reports, and observational studies were all included in this comprehensive review, and all papers had to be written in English and contain the keywords “Acupuncture and Endometriosis.”
The authors looked for these studies in several databases including PubMed, Web of Science, and CINAHL. Moreover, researchers also summarized methods used in acupuncture based on the published guidelines, “Standards for Reporting Interventions in Clinical Trials of Acupuncture.”
The scientists found three studies that included 99 women between the ages of 13-40 with an endometriosis diagnosis. All studies had a different research design, needle technique, and methods for pain evaluation. Similarities in the methods included 7 to 12 needle insertions per subject in one session, and 15 to 25 minutes during which the needles were placed. The clinicians placed needles in the lower back or pelvic-abdominal area, feet, hands, or leg.
The number of treatments ranged from 9 to 16 and the study subjects received between one to two treatments per week. Patients reported reductions in pain in all of the studies, regardless of the design.
In their report, the authors note, “Endometriosis is often painful, although with various origin, where standard treatments may be insufficient or involve side effects. Based on the reported studies, acupuncture could be tried as a complement as it is an overall safe treatment. In the future, studies designed for evaluating effectiveness between treatment strategies rather than efficacy design would be preferred as the analyses of treatment effects in the individual patients.”
Acupuncture may be a possible treatment for endometriosis-related pain. Standardization of the methods could be one goal of future research, so that clinicians using acupuncture can have a known and reliable protocol for treating their patients.