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New Research Shows Acupuncture Eases Pain in Pregnant Women

Posted: November 10, 2009

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Thirty-seven percent of women in the acupuncture group were pain-free after a week of acupuncture, compared to 22% in the sham group and 9% of the control group. Improvements in function were significantly greater among women who had real acupuncture compared to those who got the fake version or received no treatment.

But the pain relief didn't persist for some; a week after the end of acupuncture treatment, 68% of those who received the real thing still had a 30% or greater reduction in pain compared to the beginning of treatment, while 32% in the sham acupuncture group and 18% of the control group sustained this level of pain reduction. There was no significant difference among the groups in the percentage remaining free of pain two weeks into the study.

The only side effect was temporary tenderness in the ear area, reported by one woman in the acupuncture group and three in the sham acupuncture group. The treatment is inexpensive, the researchers note, at a cost of $17–20 for a pack of 100 needles, and it takes about three minutes for the needles to be put in place if an experienced person is doing the job.

In future studies, it would be worthwhile, the researchers say, to explore whether extended continuous ear acupuncture yields a more sustained effect and determine the characteristics of acupuncture responders versus nonresponders. They call for larger studies to investigate these issues, and to determine whether the treatment has any effect on pregnancy outcome.

Source: American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, September 2009.