Introduction: Growing evidence supports acupuncture for several pain conditions including chronic prostatitis. This study aimed to determine the safety, tolerability, and effectiveness of acupuncture in reducing pain in women with interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS).
Materials and methods: This prospective randomized single-blinded study compared electro-acupuncture to minimal acupuncture after 6 weekly treatments and again after 6 weeks of no treatment. Pain was assessed using the Brief Pain Inventory-Short Form (worst pain, average pain, pain severity, pain interference) and the Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS). Physical exams evaluated pelvic floor muscle tenderness. Mixed-effects models were used to estimate adjusted means over follow up.
Results: Patients were randomized to electro-acupuncture (n = 11) or acupuncture (n = 10). There were no adverse events. Both groups’ worst pain improved at 6 weeks, -2.91 ± 0.59 and -2.09 ± 0.68 for electro-acupuncture and acupuncture respectively with no difference between groups (p = 0.37). Results were similar at 12 weeks. The electro-acupuncture group had greater improvement in pain interference at 6 weeks, -3.28 ± 0.51 versus -1.67 ± 0.58 (p = 0.049).
The between group difference was not maintained at 12 weeks (p = 0.13). Average pain and pain severity showed no difference between groups (p > 0.05). The PCS improved overall at 6 weeks, -6.2 ± 2.5 (p = 0.03), with no difference between groups (p = 0.39). On physical exam, only the electro-acupuncture group showed a significant decrease in levator ani tenderness (p = 0.031) after treatment.
Conclusions: Both electro-acupuncture and acupuncture showed improvement in worst pain scores, however electro-acupuncture showed greater improvement in pain interference and pelvic floor muscle tenderness in women with IC/BPS.