BACKGROUND: Our objective was to investigate whether the effect of a brief and standardised acupuncture approach persists after the end of the acupuncture treatment (post-treatment effect) and whether the anticipation of future acupuncture treatment affects menopausal symptoms (pre-treatment effect).
METHOD: This study is a post hoc analysis of data from a randomised controlled trial where women with moderate to severe menopausal symptoms were offered weekly acupuncture treatment over five consecutive weeks and randomised (1:1) to an early intervention group that received treatment immediately and a late intervention group with a 6-week delay. The acupuncture style was Western medical, administered at CV3, CV4 and bilateral LR8, SP6 and SP9. Acupuncturists were general practitioners. The effect was evaluated repeatedly during and after the interventions using scales from the validated MenoScores Questionnaire (MSQ) for hot flushes (HF), day and night sweats (DNS), general sweating (GS) and menopausal-specific sleeping problems (MSSP) with a 26-week follow-up period (corresponding to 21 or 15 weeks post-treatment for the early and late intervention groups, respectively). Multivariable linear mixed models were used to analyse the extent and duration of effects.
RESULTS: Seventy participants were included in the study. Four participants dropped out. Furthermore, one participant was excluded from the short- and long-term follow-up analyses after the insertion of a hormonal intrauterine device, and nine participants were excluded from the long-term follow-up analysis due to the initiation of co-interventions. For each of the four outcomes, the effect was sustained up to 21 weeks post-treatment with an effect size that was only slightly diminished. A small, but significant, pre-treatment effect was observed in the HF scale scores. The same trend, although not significant, was observed in the DNS and MSSP scale scores. No serious harms were reported.
CONCLUSION: This study demonstrated that the overall effect of a brief and standardised acupuncture treatment on menopause-relevant outcomes was sustained up to 21 weeks post-treatment and that there was a small pre-treatment effect.