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Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine for Women with Chronic Pelvic Pain (Scientific Impact Paper No. 30)

Published: 20/03/2012

This is the first edition of this Scientific Impact Paper.

Update July 2015: New evidence and guidance in this field were reviewed in 2014 and it was decided that revision of this guideline would be deferred to a later date. The version available on the website will remain valid until replaced.

Chronic pelvic pain (CPP) can be defined as intermittent or constant pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis of at least six months’ duration, not occurring exclusively with menstruation or intercourse and not associated with pregnancy. It is estimated to affect approximately one in six of the adult female population.

CPP may be a symptom of a number of different conditions which may present as pelvic symptoms including gynaecological (e.g. endometriosis), urinary tract (e.g. interstitial cystitis), digestive (e.g. irritable bowel syndrome [IBS]) and musculoskeletal disorders. Psychological factors also play an important role in CPP with many women reporting histories of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

The conventional treatment of CPP may be of limited effectiveness and as a consequence women with CPP may seek non-conventional approaches to manage their symptoms. This review considers the evidence surrounding the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as a treatment for CPP, with a specific focus on acupuncture and herbal medicine.