The Holy Grail in medical clinical research is the double-blind, placebo controlled study. This is the one thing that skeptics claim acupuncture lacks. Unfortunately for them this is not the case, as this abstract of an article published in the journal Climacteric shows:
Climacteric. 2012 Sep 3. [Epub ahead of print]
Acupuncture improves sleep in postmenopause in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
* Departamento de Psicobiologia.
Background Insomnia increases in frequency as women approach and pass through menopause. Studies have not shown acupuncture efficacy for insomnia in postmenopausal women. Objectives The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture therapy on sleep parameters, depression symptoms and quality of life in postmenopausal women with insomnia. Methods This study included 18 postmenopausal women aged 50-67 years old. Participants had a body mass index ≤ 30 kg/m(2), presented a diagnosis of insomnia according to the DSM-IV criteria, had experienced at least 1 year of amenorrhea and had a follicle stimulating hormone level ≥ 30 mIU/ml. Participants were not using antidepressants, hypnotics or hormonal therapy. This study was randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled. The sample was divided into two groups: acupuncture and ‘sham’ acupuncture. We performed ten sessions of acupuncture and ‘sham’ acupuncture during a period of 5 weeks. A polysomnography exam (PSG) and questionnaires (WHOQOL-BREF, Beck Depression Inventory and Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index) were completed by all patients before and after the treatment period. Results Anthropometric, polysomnographic, and questionnaire data were similar among the groups at baseline. Comparison of baseline and post-treatment data of the acupuncture group showed that treatment resulted in significantly lower scores on the Pittsburgh Questionnaire and an improvement in psychological WHOQOL. The acupuncture group had a higher percentage of the N3 + 4 stage than the sham group in PSG findings. Conclusion Acupuncture was effective in improving reported sleep quality and quality of life in postmenopausal women with insomnia.
My comments are as follows: it is unfortunate that the study did not specify the type of sham acupuncture used. Sham acupuncture could mean anything from merely touching the skin with a needle, to inserting the needle on a non acupuncture point. Because the study was double blinded though, I suspect they used fake needles which only pretend to be inserted. Double blind means both patient and doctor don’t know who gets the real thing and who does not, so this is likely.