Two new trials in JAMA report mixed findings for acupuncture: One shows that acupuncture may help treat stress urinary incontinence, while the other shows no effect on infertility associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
In the first study, 500 Chinese women with stress urinary incontinence were randomized to electroacupuncture at the lumbosacral region or sham acupuncture (no electrical stimulation). Active and sham treatments were given three times per week for 6 weeks. The primary outcome — change in the amount of urine leakage during a 1-hour pad test between baseline and week 6 — favored electroacupuncture over sham treatment (mean reduction: 9.9 g vs. 2.6 g).
In the second trial, 1000 women with PCOS were randomized to one of four groups: active acupuncture plus clomiphene, sham acupuncture plus clomiphene, active acupuncture plus placebo, or sham acupuncture plus placebo. After up to four cycles, live birth rates did not differ between active and sham acupuncture.
Editorialists write, “These studies shed new light on when and when not to consider using acupuncture, although why and how this procedure may work require further study.”