Study: Acupuncture Improves Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
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Study: Acupuncture Improves Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Small Trial Finds Short-Term Benefits for Pain, Fatigue and Anxiety
The National Institutes of Health estimates that between 3 percent and 6 percent of all Americans sufferfrom fibromyalgia. A chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, andtenderness in localized areas of the body called "tender points," fibromyalgia primarily occurs in women,although it can strike people of both sexes and all ages. The pain associated with fibromyalgia oftenfluctuates in duration and intensity. At times, it can be quite mild; on other occasions, the pain can be sosevere as to affect a person’s ability to carry out normal functions of daily living.Just as fibromyalgia has no known cause, there is also no known cure. The medicalmanagement of fibromyalgia usually consists of a combination of approaches, including stress counseling,exercise, and a class of antidepressants known as tricyclics. These methods are considered only partiallyeffective, however, and can sometimes cause side-effects, such as excessive drowsiness, weight gain andconstipation.One form of care being used increasingly to treat the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia isacupuncture, although the current evidence supporting acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia appearsmixed. The 1997 NIH Consensus Statement on Acupuncture, for example, cited fibromyalgia as one of dozens of conditions for which acupuncture could be "useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable- 1 -alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program." 1 Studies published in 1998 and2000 2,3 concluded that acupuncture could reduce pain levels and be effective in treating fibromyalgia, while a randomized clinical trial published in July 2005 suggested true acupuncture was no better than a shamtreatment in relieving fibromyalgia pain. 4One of the most recent investigations into the effectiveness of acupuncture for fibromyalgia was presentedat the 11th World Congress on Pain in Sydney, Australia in August, 2005. 5 The trial, conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic, found that acupuncture provided significant improvements in a variety ofsymptoms associated with fibromyalgia, with the effects of care often lasting several months."This study shows there is something real about acupuncture and its effects on fibromyalgia," said Dr.David Martin, the study’s lead investigator, in a news conference held during the congress. "Our study wasperformed on patients with moderate to severe fibromyalgia. It’s my speculation that if acupuncture worksfor these patients with recalcitrant fibromyalgia - where previous treatments had not provided satisfactoryrelief - it would likely work for many of the millions of fibromyalgia patients." 6The study included 50 patients who met the American College of Rheumatology’s criteria for fibromyalgia,and who had tried other conservative treatments for relief, without success. The patients were then randomlyassigned to receive either acupuncture or simulated acupuncture, but were not told which treatment theyreceived. Acupuncture was administered for a total of six sessions over a two- to three-week period;simulated acupuncture was delivered during the same time frame.Before the first treatment, immediately after the last treatment, and at one- and seven-month periodsthereafter, patients filled out a series of questionnaires to determine the degree of symptoms theyexperienced, the effect fibromyalgia had on their daily lives, and the effects of acupuncture on relieving thecondition.According to the study authors, "Fibromyalgia symptoms were significantly improved in the acupuncturegroup as compared to the control group over the study benefit," with the greatest improvement occurring atone month following the last treatment. While activity and physical function levels did not change betweengroups, significant benefits were seen in patients who received acupuncture when comparing questionnairescores for pain, anxiety and fatigue.- 2 -"We expected the acupuncture to improve the pain," Dr. Martin said. "We didn’t really expect the largestbenefit to be in fatigue or anxiety."By seven months post-treatment, the symptoms of pain, anxiety and fatigue experienced by the acupuncturepatients had returned to baseline levels. Martin indicated his belief that the patients given acupuncturewould have seen sustained improvement in their symptoms had they continued to receive care."It’s a reasonable expectation that if they received more acupuncture after two to three months, they wouldhave maintained their improvement," he said. "Acupuncture usually works for about three months, and thenpatients need a less intensive treatment session. These patients would need more acupuncture periodicallyfor as long as they experience fibromyalgia symptoms."Recognizing and treating fibromyalgia can be a challenge for both patients and health care providers. Whileacupuncture may not cure fibromyalgia, the researchers believe that at the very least, it can fill a gap interms of the number of therapies that can help relieve the symptoms of the condition, either as a standaloneform of care or as an adjunct to other therapies."There’s not a cure available, so patients are often left somewhat frustrated by continuing pain and fatigue,"Martin explained. "Acupuncture is one of the few things shown to be effective for these symptoms. It maybe particularly attractive to patients who are unable to take medications because of intolerable side-effects."References1. Acupuncture . National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Statement, Nov. 3-5, 1997. In press.2. Sprott H, Franke S, Kluge H, et al. Pain treatment of fibromyalgia by acupuncture. Rheumatol Int1998;18(1):35-6.3. Berman BM, Swyers JP, Ezzo J. The evidence for acupuncture as a treatment for rheumatologicconditions. Rheum Dis Clin North Am Feb 2000;26(1):103-15, ix-x. 4. Assefi NP, Sherman KJ, Jacobsen C, et al. A randomized clinical trial of acupuncture compared withsham acupuncture in fibromyalgia. Ann Intern Med July 5, 2005;143(1):10-9. 5. Martin DP, Sletten CD, Williams BA, et al. Acupuncture Improves Symptoms of Fibromyalgia: ARandomized, Controlled Trial. Abstract #1260-P130. Presented at the 11th World Congress on Pain,Sydney, Australia, Aug. 25, 2005. Available from the International Association for the Study of Pain- 3 -(; Tel: 206-547-6409).6. Acupuncture relives symptoms of fibromyalgia. Newswise Medical News press release, Aug. 25, 2005.Available online at printed from: 4
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