Acupuncture DOES work! Ancient Chinese therapy ‘relieves back and pelvic pain that mothers-to-be suffer in pregnancy’
- Researchers consider it safe because it doesn’t involve the need for any drugs
- It thought to release the body’s innate ‘happy’ chemicals, called endorphins
- Acupuncture is also thought to increase blood flow to skin and muscle
Acupuncture can significantly relieve lower back or pelvic pain experienced by 90 per cent of women during pregnancy, according to an analysis.
The treatment, derived from ancient Chinese medicine, is emerging as a potential pain relief therapy.
Researchers consider it a safe treatment because it doesn’t involve the need for drugs.
The treatment, derived from ancient Chinese medicine, is emerging as a potential pain relief therapy
It is unclear exactly how it might ease pain but is thought to involve the release of the body’s innate ‘happy’ chemicals, endorphins.
Acupuncture is also thought to increase blood flow to skin and muscle.
For the study, researchers analysed 10 randomised controlled trials involving 1,040 women which were published between 2000 and 2020, and carried out in Sweden, the UK, the US, Spain and Brazil.
Seven trials described body acupuncture and three described auricular — ear lobe — acupuncture, which were delivered either by trained acupuncturists, physiotherapists or midwives.
The team, based at the Kunming Municipal Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China, found that nine studies suggested that acupuncture significantly relieved pain during pregnancy.
Of those studies, four found that acupuncture improved physical function, while five found it helped quality of life.
Pooled data analysis of four studies showed there was ‘a significant difference’ in overall effects when acupuncture was compared with other or no interventions.
However, two studies reporting on pain relief medication indicated that there was no difference in the amount they took whether given acupuncture or not.
The study, published in the journal BMJ Open, found there were ‘no observable major side effects for newborns’ if their mother opted for the therapy.
However, the research team highlighted only a few of the published studies included in the analysis evaluated outcomes such as premature birth.
The researchers concluded: ‘Acupuncture significantly improved pain, functional status, and quality of life in women with [lower back/pelvic pain] during the pregnancy.
‘Additionally, acupuncture had no observable severe adverse influences on the newborns.’
However, they emphasised that ‘more large-scale and well-designed are still needed to further confirm these results’.
The NHS says the use of acupuncture is ‘not always based on rigorous scientific evidence’.
At the minute, it is only recommended for treating chronic pain and headaches.
What is acupuncture and what can it treat?
Acupuncture is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine. Fine needles are inserted at certain sites in the body for therapeutic or preventative purposes.
It is used in many NHS GP practices, as well as in most pain clinics and hospices in the UK.
How does it work?
Western medical acupuncture is the use of acupuncture following a medical diagnosis. It involves stimulating sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles.
This results in the body producing natural substances, such as pain-relieving endorphins.
It’s likely that these naturally released substances are responsible for the beneficial effects experienced with acupuncture.
What does it treat?
Currently, NICE only recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for:
- chronic (long-term) pain
- chronic tension-type
- headaches migraines
Acupuncture is also often used to treat other musculoskeletal conditions (of the bones and muscles) and pain conditions, including:
- joint pain
- dental pain
- postoperative pain
However, the evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture compared with other treatments is unclear.