Qigong can reduce symptoms of fatigue and depression in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)-like illness, a Hong Kong study has found. One hundred and thirty-seven participants who met the diagnostic criteria for CFS-like illness were randomly assigned to either an intervention group or a waitlist control group.  Participants in the intervention group received 10 sessions of qigong training twice a week for five consecutive weeks, followed by home-based practice for 12 weeks. At the end of the training period, the results showed that total fatigue score, physical fatigue score and depression score were significantly improved and mental fatigue score was marginally significantly improved in the qigong group compared to controls. Anxiety score was not significantly improved in the qigong group. (Effects of qigong exercise on fatigue, anxiety, and depressive symptoms of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome-like illness: a randomized controlled trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:485341).

A Cochrane Database systematic review has concluded that current evidence supports acupuncture as a treatment for pelvic and back pain in pregnancy. The authors included 26 randomised trials examining 4093 pregnant women in their review. Moderate-quality evidence suggested that both acupuncture and exercise tailored to the stage of pregnancy can significantly reduce evening pelvic pain and lumbo-pelvic pain compared to usual care alone. In addition acupuncture was found to be significantly more effective than exercise for reducing evening pelvic pain, and was also more effective than physiotherapy at relieving evening lumbo-pelvic pain and disability and improving pain and function, although the effects were small. (Interventions for preventing and treating pelvic and back pain in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Aug 1;8:CD001139).

Acupuncture has a potential role in treating the sexual side-effects of antidepressant medications, suggest researchers from Canada who carried out a pilot study. Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), are known to cause sexual dysfunction symptoms including impotence, loss of libido and inability to orgasm, with prevalence rates as high as 50% to 90%. Patients experiencing adverse sexual events because of their antidepressant medication received a traditional Chinese medicine assessment and followed an acupuncture treatment protocol for 12 consecutive weeks. The acupuncture points used were Taixi KID-3, Mingmen DU-4, Shenshu BL-23, Shenmen HE-7 and Neiguan P-6. Significant improvement was reported in all areas of sexual functioning among male participants, as well as in both anxiety and depressive symptoms. Female participants reported a significant improvement in libido and vaginal lubrication and a non-significant trend toward improvement in several other areas of function. (Efficacy of Acupuncture Treatment of Sexual Dysfunction Secondary to Antidepressants. J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Jun 21. doi:10.1089/acm.2012.0751 [Epub ahead of print]).

A prospective, randomised trial carried out in Denmark has found that acupuncture can reduce asthma symptoms and medication use in preschool children.  The researchers randomised 122 children to either acupuncture (10 treatments) or usual care over a period of three months. Significant reductions were observed in subjective asthma symptoms and the use of inhaled steroids and beta-2 agonists in both groups at the end of the three-month treatment course. Compared with the control group, the reduction in asthma symptoms and use of inhaled steroids was significantly larger in the acupuncture group. However, at eight-month follow-up, these differences had disappeared. (Acupuncture in asthmatic children: a prospective, randomized, controlled clinical trial of efficacy. Altern Ther Health Med. 2013 Jul-Aug;19(4):13-9).

Acupuncture should be considered to be one of the most effective treatments for short-term alleviation of knee pain from osteoarthritis (OA), according to a network meta-analysis of randomised controlled studies by UK authors. This type of meta-analysis is gaining popularity among clinicians, as it allows comparison between multiple interventions that have been used to treat the same condition, even if there has not been a ‘head-to-head’ comparison in the original studies. Data suitable for analysis came from 114 trials which used a total of 22 different treatment modalities to treat 9,709 patients. Eight interventions, including acupuncture, were found to result in statistically significant reductions in pain, compared with standard care. Most trials studied only short-term effects of treatment and many were classed as being of poor quality. The trials that were judged to be of high quality were mostly studies involving acupuncture (11 trials) or muscle-strengthening exercise (9 trials). Both of these interventions were found to be significantly better than standard care, with acupuncture performing better than muscle-strengthening exercise. Acupuncture was shown to be significantly superior to sham, and in addition it was shown to outperform most of the physical therapies recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in its 2008 guidelines on treatment of knee OA. The authors report that the effect sizes for acupuncture compare favourably with those of pharmacological treatments, and recommend that acupuncture should be considered to be an evidence-based treatment option with a credible role to play in the management of knee OA pain. (Acupuncture and other physical treatments for the relief of pain due to osteoarthritis of the knee: network meta-analysis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2013 Sep;21(9):1290-8).
Meanwhile, a small US-based longitudinal study of 30 knee OA patients has found that, compared with sham acupuncture, real acupuncture produces better clinical outcomes for both pain and function. Sensations of soreness and aching during needling were implicated as the two key sensations that differentiate real acupuncture from superficial acupuncture. (A longitudinal study of the reliability of acupuncture deqi sensations in knee osteoarthritis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:204259).