A new study of PCOS has shown improvements in ovulation or hormone levels in two groups of women who either received real or fake acupuncture treatments. Both groups also tended to have more periods whether their treatments were real or not. The results have left researchersconfused because it’s not clear why women getting fake acupuncture treatments would improve. “Whether there’s actually some physiological benefit from a sham acupuncture treatment, I don’t know,” said study author Lisa Pastore, from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
It could be that the hope of getting better with acupuncture makes a difference, she said, or that the benefit of “simply slowing down, lying down in a quiet room” during either treatment was behind hormone and ovulation changes. Some initial research has suggested thatacupuncturemaybebeneficial for women with PCOS. To better explore the possibility, Dr. Pastore and her colleagues randomly assigned 84 women diagnosed with PCOS to get 12 real or fake acupuncture treatment sessions over an eight-week period.
Acupuncturists stimulated pointson theskinabove thebladder and spleen in women getting real acupuncture treatment, while a phony device was used on the arms and legsin women in the sham group. During the eight-week study and for three months afterwards, there was no significant difference in the number of women in each group who ovulated every month. On average, 37% of women in the real acupuncture group ovulated in a given month, compared to 40% in the fake group. In general, women tended to have more frequent periods during those five months than before, and, curiously, the difference was more pronounced in the sham group.
Both groups saw some improvement related to the balance of pregnancy and ovulation hormones in their blood compared to before they started treatment, the researchers reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. That mightsuggest thatthe “placebo effect” — when patients get better because they think a treatment will help them — could be behind the responses in both groups. Dr. Pastore pointed out the acupuncture treatment was standardized for all women in the study and that in the real world practitioners would work with patients to develop the best treatment for their personal needs.
That could be why the real sessions didn’t seem to help women more than fake acupuncture, she added. “My advice is, if you want to try a non-drug treatment and if you can afford the acupuncture treatment, why not try it?” said Dr. Pastore. “If you try it for two, three months, you’re going to know if you start having regular periods or not.”
Although the cost of acupuncture varies greatly, a typical session runs to about $60 to $100.
SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, online August 3, 2011, http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/96/10/3143.
Sincerely, Christine DeZarn Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association, Inc. (PCOSA)