In a recent study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, a group of researchers from the United States and China reported development of an acupuncture prescription point that may benefit women with vulvodynia.
Vulvodynia is marked by chronic vulvar pain and discomfort. This can interfere with sexual relations, as the area cannot be touched without inducing pain. In some cases, intercourse is impossible.
Vulvodynia can be difficult to treat, and multiple therapies have been described, including nerve blocks, physical therapy, and medication. Acupuncture has also been evaluated and has shown encouraging results in preliminary studies. The current study aimed to assess the feasibility of a specific pattern of acupuncture to treat vulvodynia.
Thirty-six women with vulvodynia (average age 35 years) took part. Before the study began, the women completed the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) and the Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire.
Next, the women were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Eighteen women received acupuncture treatment twice a week for five weeks. According to the protocol, twelve needles were placed at points in the head, abdomen, feet, ankles, and hands.
The remaining women were put on a waiting list and had no treatment during the study period.
Five weeks later, the women filled out the questionnaires again.
Compared to the untreated women, the acupuncture group reported decreases in vulvar pain and pain during intercourse. Their overall FSFI scores also suggested improved sexual function. However, acupuncture did not improve sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, or sexual satisfaction.
In reviewing their findings, the authors concluded that the acupuncture protocol represented a feasible therapy for vulvodynia with promising effects on vulvar pain and dyspareunia among women with vulvodynia.
The authors also warned that although the preliminary reports are promising, they should be interpreted cautiously. As the study only compared acupuncture to patients receiving no treatment, it is unclear if the benefits were due to the specific acupuncture protocol, to acupuncture in general, or to a placebo effect. Also, it is unclear if the benefits would be maintained over time. However, as vulvodynia represents a challenging condition with limited treatment options, further studies using randomized, placebo-controlled designs are warranted.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
HealthDay via DoctorsLounge.com
“Acupuncture Deemed Feasible for Vulvodynia”
(Last Updated: February 10, 2015)
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Schlaeger, Judith M., PhD, CNM, Lac, et al.
“Acupuncture for the Treatment of Vulvodynia: A Randomized Wait-List Controlled Pilot Study”
(Full-text. First published online: January 30, 2015)