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.

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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.

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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].”

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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