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Acupuncture Found Effective Against Depression During Pregnancy
 
ScienceDaily (Feb. 4, 2010) — In a study to be presented February 4 at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's (SMFM) annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting ™, in Chicago, researchers will unveil findings that show that acupuncture may be an effective treatment for depression during pregnancy.
 

"Depression during pregnancy is an issue of concern because it has negative effects on both the mother and the baby as well as the rest of the family," said Dr. Schnyer, one of the study's authors.

About 10% of pregnant women meet criteria for major depression and almost 20% have increased symptoms of depression during pregnancy. The rates of depression in pregnant women are comparable to rates seen among similarly aged non-pregnant women and among women during the postpartum period, but there are far fewer treatment studies of depression during pregnancy than during the postpartum period.

Dealing with depression is difficult for pregnant women because the use of anti-depressants poses concerns to the developing fetus and women are reluctant to take medications during pregnancy.

In the study, an evaluator-blinded randomized trial, 150 participants who met the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV) criteria for Major Depressive Disorder were randomized to receive either acupuncture specific for depression (SPEC, n=52) or one of two active controls: control acupuncture (CTRL, n=49) or massage (MSSG, n=49). Treatments lasted eight weeks (12 sessions). Junior acupuncturists masked to treatment assignment needled participants at points prescribed by senior acupuncturists. Massage therapists and patients were not blinded. The primary outcome was the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, administered by blinded raters at baseline and after four and eight weeks of treatment. Data were analyzed using mixed effects models and by intent-to-treat.

The results showed that the women who received SPEC experienced a significantly greater decrease in depression severity (p<0.05) compared to the combined controls (d=0.39, 95% CI [-1.31, 1.65]) or CTRL acupuncture alone (p<0.05; Cohen´s-d = 0.46, 95% CI [-1.24, 2.31]). They also had a higher response rate (63.0%) than the combined controls (44.3%; p<.05; NNT=5.3, 95% CI [2.8, 75.0]) or CTRL acupuncture alone (37.5%; p<0.05; NNT=3.9, 95% CI [2.2, 19.8]). Symptom reduction and response rates did not differ significantly between controls (CTRL 37.5% and MSSG 50.0%). Mild and transient side effects were reported by 43/150 participants (4 in MSSG; 19 in CTRL, 20 in SPEC). Significantly fewer participants reported side-effects in MSSG than the two acupuncture groups (p<0.01).

"The results of our study show that the acupuncture protocol we tested could be a viable treatment option for depression during pregnancy" said Dr. Schnyer.

 
 
Study Maps Effects of Acupuncture on the Brain
 
ScienceDaily (Feb. 5, 2010) — Important new research about the effects of acupuncture on the brain may provide an understanding of the complex mechanisms of acupuncture and could lead to a wider acceptability of the treatment.
 

The study, by researchers at the University of York and the Hull York Medical School published in Brain Research, indicates that acupuncture has a significant effect on specific neural structures. When a patient receives acupuncture treatment, a sensation called deqi can be obtained; scientific analysis shows that this deactivates areas within the brain that are associated with the processing of pain.

Dr Hugh MacPherson, of the Complementary Medicine Research Group in the University's Department of Health Sciences, says: "These results provide objective scientific evidence that acupuncture has specific effects within the brain which hopefully will lead to a better understanding of how acupuncture works."

Neuroscientist Dr Aziz Asghar, of the York Neuroimaging Centre and the Hull York Medical School, adds: "The results are fascinating. Whether such brain deactivations constitute a mechanism which underlies or contributes to the therapeutic effect of acupuncture is an intriguing possibility which requires further research."

Last summer, following research conducted in York, acupuncture was recommended for the first time by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a treatment option for NHS patients with lower back pain. NICE guidelines now state that GPs should 'consider offering a course of acupuncture comprising a maximum of 10 sessions over a period of up to 12 weeks' for patients with this common condition.

Current clinical trials at the University of York are investigating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of acupuncture for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and for depression. Recent studies in the US have also shown that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for migraines and osteoarthritis of the knee.

The York team believe that the new research could help to clear the way for acupuncture to be more broadly accepted as a treatment option on the NHS for a number of medical conditions.