Recent research suggests acupuncture may provide relief to people afflicted with fibromyalgia. In a pair of studies by two separate research groups, similar results showed a significant improvement for participants in terms of pain and other symptoms. The positive results could lead to a greater acceptance of acupuncture from primary care physicians and specialists in musculoskeletal disorders who treat this common condition.
Although it is often difficult to diagnose, numbers show that close to 4 percent of the population suffers from fibromyalgia. Symptoms of the disease include widespread pain, fatigue and interruptions in sleep patterns, irritable bowel syndrome and headaches. Patients have also complained of depression, chest pains, dizziness, and anxiety. A specific cause for fibromyalgia is still unknown, but some factors that may contribute are chemical changes in the brain, an injury or trauma, or a viral or bacterial infection.
The first study1, led by Betsy B. Singh, PhD, from the Southern California University of Health Services, recruited 24 participants from the Orange County and Los Angeles areas. After a baseline assessment was completed, the candidates received 16 acupuncture treatments for eight weeks, with a three- to four-day break between treatments. The second study,2 headed up by David P. Martin, MD, PhD, from the Mayo Clinic, differed from Singh’s primarily in that it used a control group. The two groups, consisting of 25 applicants each, were treated six times within a two- to three-week period. Both groups’ acupoints were swabbed with alcohol and then covered with a bandage. The control group’s bandages were affixed with a needle that stuck out of the bandage but did not pierce the skin.
Although both studies showed marked improvement for the participants, the researchers emphasize that more studies need to be performed. The findings certainly provide positive evidence of the potential for acupuncture to effectively treat fibromyalgia. As research such as this continues to support the efficacy of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, it will open the door between Western and Eastern medicine a little wider.
1. Singh B, Wu Wen-Shuo, Hwang San Hong, et al. Effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 2006;12(2):34-41.
2. Martin D P, Sletten C D, Williams B A, Berger I H. Improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms with acupuncture: results of a randomized controlled trial. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2006;81(6):749-757.