In this study, the addition of acupuncture to usual treatments for fibromyalgia helped control pain and improve quality of life.

First, the details.

  • 58 women with fibromyalgia were randomly assigned to acupuncture plus tricyclic antidepressants and exercise, or tricyclic antidepressants and exercise alone.
  • Patients rated their pain on a visual analogue scale.
  • An assessor who was unaware of the treatment evaluated the average pressure pain threshold value over all 18 fibromyalgia points.
  • Quality of life was evaluated using the SF-36 health survey.
  • There was no attempt to conceal the treatment differences between groups — non-blinded.

And, the results.

  • At the end of 20 sessions: patients getting acupuncture were significantly better than the control group in all measures of pain and in 5 of the SF-36 subscales.
  • After 6 months: the acupuncture group was significantly better than the control group in numbers of tender points, average pressure pain threshold at the 18 tender points and 3 subscales of SF-36.
  • After 1 year: the acupuncture group was significantly better in 1 subscale of the SF-36.
  • At 2 years: no differences between the 2 treatment groups.

The bottom line?
The authors think the next step should be to evaluate the specific effects of acupuncture for fibromyalgia.

OK, but the role of acupuncture is still not proved beyond a doubt, as summarized here.

Two shortcomings compromise these results. First, patients were aware that 1 group was getting a third treatment and the other wasn’t. Second, the design of this study was A + B vs A (usual treatment plus acupuncture vs usual treatment), which has been criticized here.

9/5/08 20:02 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.