Acupuncture May Help Ease Fibromyalgia Pain
Alternative therapy combined with medication appears safe and effective, expert says
By Steven Reinberg
MONDAY, Feb. 15, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Acupuncture may help ease pain and improve quality of life for people with fibromyalgia, a new study suggests.
Ten weeks after treatment, the pain scores of patients given acupuncture dropped an average of 41 percent, compared with an average drop of 27 percent for those given a simulated acupuncture treatment. The benefits were still seen after a year.
"Individualized acupuncture is a safe and good therapeutic option for the treatment of patients with fibromyalgia," said lead researcher Dr. Jorge Vas, of the pain treatment unit at Dona Mercedes Primary Health Center in Seville, Spain.
Fibromyalgia patients have chronic widespread pain, which is associated with fatigue, poor sleep patterns and depression. The condition affects up to 5 percent of the population, Vas said. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of fibromyalgia patients are women.
According to the study authors, nine out of 10 patients try some form of alternative therapy, such as massage or acupuncture, in addition to their regular pain medication.
"Both acupuncture and traditional medicine have a place in treating fibromyalgia," said Dr. Alexander Rances, an acupuncturist, pain management specialist and attending physician at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.
"A combination of Western as well as traditional Chinese medicine probably offers these patients the best possible therapy," he said.
With acupuncture, extremely thin needles are inserted through the skin at strategic body points to treat pain.
Fibromyalgia treatment usually starts with medications such as the nerve pain medication Lyrica (pregabalin), and if that fails or is only partly effective, doctors might add acupuncture to the mix, Rances said.
For the study, Vas and colleagues randomly assigned 153 patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia to individually tailored acupuncture or simulated acupuncture. Patients had nine weekly treatments, each session lasting 20 minutes.
"Although it was allowed for the participants to continue with the pharmacological [drug] treatment they were taking beforehand, when the study was finished, the patients who received individualized acupuncture were taking less medication than the group on sham acupuncture," Vas said.