Vibrotactile stimulation may improve pain, fatigue, and sleep quality in individuals with fibromyalgia, according to study results published in Arthritis Research & Therapy.

The study included 77 women participants with fibromyalgia who were randomly assigned to receive vibrotactile stimulation or placebo. Vibrotactile stimulation involved extensive body stimulation with gentle mechanical vibrations administered for a period of 3 hours at nighttime over 3 weeks. The placebo intervention used identical instruments to simulate an alternative treatment option. The primary outcome measure was a combination of assessments of pain and fatigue and complaints of poor cognition.

Participants who received vibrotactile stimulation reported improvements in fibromyalgia symptoms globally compared with patients in the placebo group (P =.012). In univariate analyses, vibrotactile stimulation was found to improve unpleasant somatic sensations (including generalized pain, P =.004, and fatigue, P =.002) but did not improve cognition, anxiety, or depression.

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Despite the fact that the intervention was administered at night, vibrotactile stimulation significantly improved sleep quality compared with placebo.

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Both active intervention and placebo were generally well tolerated by participants, with a mean numeric rating score of 11.9±23.6 for vibrotactile stimulation and 6.1±21.9 for placebo on a 101-point scale. Two of the participants discontinued treatment because of excessive discomfort: 1 in the intervention group and 1 in the placebo group. Another 6 participants required the intensity of the stimulus to be reduced to 66% of the prescribed power because of discomfort (4 in intervention group, 2 in the placebo group).

“The degree of improvement and the easy application of our proposal would seem to be sufficiently relevant to suggest a potential role for vibrotactile stimulation in the treatment of fibromyalgia symptoms,” noted the researchers.

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Pujol J, Ramos-Lopez D, Blanco-Hinojo L, et al. Testing the effects of gentle vibrotactile stimulation on symptom relief in fibromyalgia. Arthritis Res Ther. 2019;21:148.