Researchers have found that a 4-week course of acupuncture increased self-reported relief and improvement of symptoms for patients with a subtype of indigestion known as postprandial distress syndrome (PDS).
The findings, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, from a randomised clinical trial, revealed that the effects of acupuncture persisted through the 12-week follow-up without symptom relapse or rebound.
PDS, a condition characterised by bothersome early fullness after eating and upper abdominal bloating, places a substantial burden on the health care system because of its high prevalence in a relatively young patient population and the chronic relapsing nature of its symptoms.
The condition is reported to have a great negative effect on health-related quality of life, which makes finding an effective treatment imperative.
Previous studies on acupuncture have been limited by the small number of participants and poor study quality.
Researchers from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine randomly assigned 278 Chinese patients with PDS to 12 sessions of acupuncture or sham acupuncture over 4 weeks.
Sham acupuncture is used as a control in scientific studies that test the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of various illness or disorders.
The research team then compared the proportion of patients in each group who reported 'extreme improvement' or 'improvement' in their stomach symptoms as well as the proportion of patients who experienced complete resolution of their symptoms.
They found that a significantly higher proportion of patients in the acupuncture group experienced overall improvement or elimination of their symptoms than in the sham acupuncture group.
The improvement was sustained for at least 12 weeks after the final acupuncture treatment and there were no serious adverse events among the study patients.
"Future research on the long-term effect of acupuncture that incorporates objective outcomes and daily measurement of symptoms is warranted," the researchers noted.