A group acupuncture program may represent a safe, tolerated and effective management strategy for women with fibromyalgia by providing greater improvement in global symptom impact, pain, and fatigue compared with education, according to a randomized study published in Pain Medicine.
The study included 30 adult women with fibromyalgia and a mean visual analogue scale pain score ≥5, representing moderate to severe pain levels. Investigators randomly assigned study participants to receive 20 treatments of group acupuncture (n=16) or group education (n=14) over a 10-week period.
Group acupuncture consisted of 40-minute sessions of acupuncture twice a week using the traditional Chinese medicine and group education was conducted through group discussions providing information on fibromyalgia etiology, demographics, and pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic management strategies.
Participants were asked to fill out the Weekly Revised Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQR) and Global Fatigue Index at baseline, at 5 weeks, at 10 weeks, and at 4-week follow-up.
The majority of study participants (78%) reported experiencing fibromyalgia symptoms for >10 years. By the end of treatment and at the 4-week follow-up, patients who participated in the group education experienced no improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms or fatigue (P =.50).
The acupuncture treatment resulted in a clinically and statistically significant improvement in the FIQR score at follow-up when compared with baseline values (P <.001). In addition, participants in the education group experienced worsening fatigue, whereas participants who received acupuncture reported improvements in fatigue at the end of treatment (P <.001). Dizziness (later resolved) and bruising were reported by 1 patient each in the acupuncture group. No severe adverse events occurred in either group.
Although the findings provide insight into the association between traditional Chinese medicine and pain and fatigue improvement in fibromyalgia, the investigators were unable to determine a causal relationship. In addition, the study included a small number of women, which limits the generalizability of the findings.
Because of the strategy’s low risk for adverse effects, the investigators suggest acupuncture “should be considered as a treatment option for those [with fibromyalgia] [whose symptoms] are not otherwise [controlled].”
Mist SD, Jones KD. Randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for women with fibromyalgia: group acupuncture with traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis-based point selection [published online February 13, 2018]. Pain Med. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnx322