More Than Needles: The Importance of Explanations and Self-Care Advice in Treating Primary Dysmenorrhea with Acupuncture

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:3467067. doi: 10.1155/2016/3467067. Epub 2016 May 8.

Abstract

Background. Primary dysmenorrhea is a common gynaecological condition. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) acupuncturists commonly treat primary dysmenorrhea and dispense specific self-care advice for this condition. The impact of self-care advice on primary dysmenorrhea is unknown. Methods. 19 TCM acupuncture practitioners from New Zealand or Australia and 12 New Zealand women who had recently undergone acupuncture treatment for primary dysmenorrhea as part of a randomised controlled trial participated in this qualitative, pragmatic study. Focus groups and semistructured interviews were used to collect data. These were recorded, transcribed, and analysed using thematic analysis. Results. The overarching theme was that an acupuncture treatment consisted of "more than needles" for both practitioners and participants. Practitioners and participants both discussed the partnership they engaged in during treatment, based on openness and trust. Women felt that the TCM self-care advice was related to positive outcomes for their dysmenorrhea and increased their feelings of control over their menstrual symptoms. Conclusions. Most of the women in this study found improved symptom control and reduced pain. A contributing factor for these improvements may be an increased internal health locus of control and an increase in self-efficacy resulting from the self-care advice given during the clinical trial.