Fibromyalgia: What is it?
Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia? Fibromyalgia is one of the most common diagnoses encountered in any general medicine clinic. The Mayo Clinic defines it as:
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. (from the Mayo Clinic Website)
What I would like to emphasize here is that fibromyalgia is not just a fancy word for pain. It is also a condition where the body’s perception of pain is worsened. Note that the Mayo Clinic definition says that the way the brain processes pain signals is affected. This is significant because acupuncture is known to have many proven ways of influencing how the brain perceives pain.
Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia
For this blog entry, I would like to cite not one, not two, but three studies on the effect of acupuncture on fibromyalgia. The first is from Effectiveness of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia.
In this study, the scientists used the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire on patients at the start of the study, at a month later, and two months later. The study said that 17 acupuncture points were used.
Here are the results:
The Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) showed significant differences at 1 and 2 months. For the SF-12, 3 subscales showed significant differences between baseline and 2 months. Four of 6 items were significantly changed. The mean number of general health symptoms was significantly decreased by 2 months. For the Catastrophe Index, significant differences were found for baseline vs 2 months. Pain threshold scores were significantly different at end of treatment for 5 bilateral tender points. There was significant improvement in Beck Depression items for both 1- and 2-month periods. In a multivariate regression model, 5 covariates were included–age, number of weeks in treatment, number of doctors treating, number of general symptoms, and baseline FIQ score. The results indicated significant age effect. This analysis showed that the higher the FIQ score, the more positive the change experienced by study participants. Number of weeks in treatment, number of doctors who treated, and total number of general health symptoms did not have a significant effect on outcomes.
And the conclusion was:
Significant improvement was experienced by participants at 8 weeks of treatment. Acupuncture treatment as delivered was effective at reducing FMS symptoms in this outcome study.
Acupuncture vs fluoxetine
The second journal article is entitled A Randomized Clinical Trial of Fibromyalgia Treatment with Acupuncture compared to Fluoxetine. What this means is that the scientists who made the study not only wanted to see how acupuncture works, but compared it to a western drug, fluoxetine. Fluoxetine is a drug for mood, and works by affecting serotonin.
Fifteen patients each were given either acupuncture or fluoxetine and the results compared using visual analogue scale, Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, and manual tender points present. Here are the results:
After four weeks, the acupuncture group was significantly better than the control group in the number of tender points. Total fibromyalgia symptoms were significantly improved in the acupuncture group compared with the control group during the study period (P= 0.01). The largest difference in mean FIQ total scores was observed at 4 weeks (42.2 VS. 34.8 in the control and acupuncture groups, respectively; P= 0.007). At the end of one year of the follow up, patients who received acupuncture were significantly better than the control group in all measures. Fatigue and anxiety were the most significantly improved symptoms during the follow up period.
What this means was that the patients who got acupuncture had much better results than those who took the drug. And it wasn’t just pain – even tiredness and anxiety was improved. Acupuncture for fibromyalgia only? Nope, other things too!
The third journal article is from the Mayo Clinic entitled Improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms with acupuncture: results of a randomized controlled trial. Here, the scientists compared true acupuncture to fake acupuncture with fifty patients each. Symptoms were measured again with the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire as well as the Multidimensional Pain Inventory at the start of the study, at one month, and at 7 months.
The results were as such:
Total fibromyalgia symptoms, as measured by the FIQ, were significantly improved in the acupuncture group compared with the control group during the study period (P = .01). The largest difference in mean FIQ total scores was observed at 1 month (42.2 vs 34.8 in the control and acupuncture groups, respectively; P = .007). Fatigue and anxiety were the most significantly improved symptoms during the follow-up period. However, activity and physical function levels did not change. Acupuncture was well tolerated, with minimal adverse effects.
And their conclusions were:
This study paradigm allows for controlled and blinded clinical trials of acupuncture. We found that acupuncture significantly improved symptoms of fibromyalgia. Symptomatic improvement was not restricted to pain relief and was most significant for fatigue and anxiety.
What this meant was that on the first few treatments, the pain relief was most significant. On later follow up, patients not only had the pain relief but felt less tired and had less mood problems.
Acupuncture for fibromyalgia is definitely a good option!
Hadianfard MJ, Hosseinzadeh Parizi M. A randomized clinical trial of fibromyalgia treatment with acupuncture compared with fluoxetine. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2012 Oct;14(10):631-40. Epub 2012 Oct 30. PubMed PMID: 23285415; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3518980.
Martin DP, Sletten CD, Williams BA, Berger IH. Improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms with acupuncture: results of a randomized controlled trial. Mayo Clin Proc. 2006 Jun;81(6):749-57. PubMed PMID: 16770975.
Singh BB, Wu WS, Hwang SH, Khorsan R, Der-Martirosian C, Vinjamury SP, Wang CN, Lin SY. Effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Altern Ther Health Med. 2006 Mar-Apr;12(2):34-41. PubMed PMID: 16541995.