Five trials (277 women) were included in this review. No trials compared acupuncture or acupressure versus other active treatments. The number of treatment sessions ranged from seven to 28. The quality of the evidence ranged from low to very low quality, the main limitations being imprecision due to small sample sizes and risk of bias related to detection bias and selective reporting.
Acupuncture versus sham acupuncture
Acupuncture may provide a greater reduction in mood-related PMS symptoms (mean difference (MD) -9.03, 95% confidence interval (CI) -10.71 to -7.35, one randomised controlled trial (RCT), n = 67, low-quality evidence) and in physical PMS symptoms (MD -9.11, 95% CI -10.82 to -7.40, one RCT, n = 67, low-quality evidence) than sham acupuncture, as measured by the Daily Record of Severity of Problems scale (DRSP). The evidence suggests that if women have a mood score of 51.91 points with sham acupuncture, their score with acupuncture would be between 10.71 and 7.35 points lower and if women have a physical score of 46.11 points, their score with acupuncture would be between 10.82 and 7.4 points lower.There was insufficient evidence to determine whether there was any difference between the groups in the rate of adverse events (risk ratio (RR) 1.74, 95% CI 0.39 to 7.76, three RCTs, n = 167, I2 = 0%, very low-quality evidence).
Specific PMS symptoms were not reported
There may be little or no difference between the groups in response rates. Use of a fixed-effect model suggested a higher response rate in the acupuncture group than in the sham group (RR 2.59, 95% CI 1.71 to 3.92; participants = 100; studies = 2; I2 = 82%), but owing to the high heterogeneity we tested the effect of using a random-effects model, which provided no clear evidence of benefit for acupuncture (RR 4.22, 95% CI 0.45 to 39.88, two RCTs, n = 100, I2 = 82%, very low-quality evidence).
Acupuncture may improve quality of life (measured by the WHOQOL-BREF) compared to sham (MD 2.85, 95% CI 1.47 to 4.23, one RCT, n = 67, low-quality evidence).
Acupuncture versus no treatment
Due to the very low quality of the evidence, we are uncertain whether acupuncture reduces PMS symptoms compared to a no treatment control (MD -13.60, 95% CI -15.70 to -11.50, one RCT, n = 14).
No adverse events were reported in either group.
No data were available on specific PMS symptoms, response rate or quality of life outcomes.
Acupressure versus sham acupressure
We found low-quality evidence that acupressure may reduce the number of women with moderate to severe PMS symptoms at the end of the trial compared to sham acupressure (RR 0.64 95% CI 0.52 to 0.79, one RCT, n = 90, low-quality evidence). The evidence suggests that if 97 women out of 100 in the sham acupressure group had moderate to severe PMS symptoms, the number of women in the acupuncture group with moderate to severe symptoms would be 50 to 76 women.
Acupressure may improve both physical (MD 24.3, 95% CI 17.18 to 31.42, one RCT, n = 90, low-quality evidence) and mental (MD 17.17, 95% CI 13.08 to 21.26, one RCT, n = 90, low-quality evidence) quality of life.
No data were available on adverse events, specific symptoms or response rates.