Skeptical Researchers Say Not Enough Evidence to Support CAM Therapy in Battling FM Pain

Skeptical Researchers Say Not Enough Evidence to Support CAM Therapy in Battling FM Pain

Acupuncture is the only type of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapy that has shown any promise in relieving pain among people with fibromyalgia (FM), and even its benefits are not entirely accepted by the medical community, according to a recent study on the topic.

More studies are warranted to investigate the benefits of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies in improving pain in fibromyalgia (FM), according to results of a recent study showing that of the several CAM therapies available, acupuncture is the only one that has shown promise in decreasing FM pain, although more studies are required.

The report, “An overview of systematic reviews of complementary and alternative therapies for fibromyalgia using both AMSTAR and ROBIS as quality assessment tools,” was published in the journal Systematic Reviews.

“There was low-quality evidence that acupuncture improves pain compared to no treatment or standard treatment, but good evidence that it is no better than sham acupuncture,” the study found. “The evidence for homoeopathy, spinal manipulation and herbal medicine was limited.”

FM patients, the vast majority of whom are women, often turn to CAM therapies when conventional medication cannot relieve their pain. CAM practices include acupuncture, hypnotherapy, homoeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, herbal medicine, reflexology and aromatherapy.

“CAM has been defined as diagnosis, treatment and/or prevention which complements mainstream medicine by contributing to a common whole, by satisfying a demand not met by orthodoxy or by diversifying the conceptual frameworks of medicine,” wrote researchers, who hoped to provide an updated analysis of knowledge on these therapies and evaluate the quality of previous studies.

The team identified 15 review studies, including data from randomized controlled trials in which a given CAM therapy was compared to placebo, usual treatment or waitlist controls. In these studies, the primary outcome measure was pain, and the secondary outcome measure was a treatment’s adverse events.

The analysis showed that although promising, still little evidence exists that acupuncture improves pain compared to no treatment or standard treatment. Researchers were also unable to reach a definitive conclusion on the efficacy of other therapies, such as homoeopathy and spinal manipulation. Also, more studies are required to test the benefits of herbal extracts such as Capsicum, nabilone and 0il-24, in improving FM pain.

“Overall, no firm conclusions were drawn for either spinal manipulation or homoeopathy for FM,” researchers wrote. “There is limited evidence for topical Capsicum to alleviate symptoms of FM, but more research is needed.”

9 comments

  1. HJ says:

    Oh joy. But aren’t we supposed to use CAM instead of opiods?

    Because opiods are bad. Right?

    We desperately need more treatments that enhance quality of life and researchers and politicians should not be so quick to demonize pharmacological interventions (especially when used in conjunction with physical therapy if effective, heat treatments, Epsom salts, pacing activity). Trigger point injections, lidocaine patches and a TENS unit help me, but I found a physiatrist willing to offer such treatments. I still need pharmacological treatment to continue working. (Sure wish I could pull an Epsom salt bath or physical therapist out of my pocket during the workday!)

    I did try acupuncture. I was skeptical, but tried to suspend disbelief. I thought, “Either it will have no effect or I’ll feel better, so it’s worth trying.” What I didn’t anticipate was that I may have side-effects. I felt nauseated and it felt like it irritated the areas that it was meant to treat. One point, the one between my thumb and pointer finger, was extremely uncomfortable. A needle in the top of my forearm felt like it landed on a nerve and the numbness I’ve had in my pinky finger has only progressively expanded to my arm (which it may have done anyhow) when I lie in certain positions (I have cervical spondylosis). My lower back (SI Joints in particular) where more achy than usual. I felt a general malaise and fatigue — very flu-like.

    The practictioner said I may be sensitive to the treatment and wanted to try again with fewer needles. I respect that, but I’d rather continue the trigger point injections which have reliably helped me. I don’t feel I have any lasting negative effects from the treatment. The ill effects lasted about a week and a half, mostly just a surge of my illness symptoms (pain and fatigue). I still have numbness in my finger/arm that was occurring prior to treatment and is probably related to my cervical spondylosis and not to the treatment.

    • MAA48 says:

      You could try another acupuncturist as a comparison. They all have different approaches. I go to one for my fibromyalgia and other pain, I never received needles in the places you describe. This is not meant to stop your other treatments, but just a thought.

  2. Em says:

    Topical Capsicum was a disaster for me altho I know of others it has helped. Acupunture by a skilled doctor likely could be of help. The one I went to did not know good cow dung from apple butter. If it looks like a duck, etc. So many predators…how do these folks sleep at night??
    Okay a judgmental comment. I will continue on w/ my own regimen and doing my best. A day in the life of a skeptic. Always we hear more research needs to be done-not a critical remark as this is true. Comes down to multiple choice or true/false. Essays are not acceptable in the world of professionals or if it is this is a rare occurrence-mayhap too succinct.

  3. Ann says:

    I am various medications for Fibromyalga which is truly a debilitating condition… I paid for private acupuncture, for my neck,shoulders, spine, elbows and legs.. Then found out my GP does acupuncture and this has saved my sanity. Especially in the neck, shoulder, top of the spine, elbows. The more I have had the longer I can go before kneck seizes up again. This enables me to use the CPAP machine as it stops me having to straighten my neck during night. As if the sleep deprivation isn’t enough on its own with dreadful condition.

  4. Kathy says:

    I have Fibro and tried this weekly for six months. I found no benefit from it personally. I hope it works for others. What a great option.

  5. Julie Shenk says:

    I was too sensitive to benefit with Acupuncture. Forty dollars two to three times a week for a 5-minute session was not cost worthy for our budget. I guess it helped a tad. Sadly, other providers who do this treatment would only bill as acupuncture even though pain treatment facility or chiro office. My insurance would not pay for it–period.

  6. open4thot says:

    I found great relief from massage therapy when I was able to afford it twice weekly. My muscle spasms were less intense and my posture improved as well. Now that insurance no longer covers massage, I am unable to afford it and have most definitely noticed an increase in severity of symptoms.
    …yet, Acupuncture is accepted by insurance. Who makes these decisions? LOBBYISTS!

  7. The net cast was not wide enough, for floatation therapy is extremely effective in treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia and there are studies which demonstrate this. Here’s one report: http://fibromyalgiaflotationproject.com/files/flotation-fibromyalgia-pilot-study-full.pdf.

    As a provider of floatation therapy, I have witnessed over 200 individuals get relief from pain, stiffness, depression and sleep difficulties from floating. If you are interested in trying this blissful experience, try doing a web search. Include your city and the term “floatation therapy”. You’ll find some information at our website too:

  8. Dianne Wilber says:

    Chiropractic care has helped me tremendously! I`ve had FM 4 about 28 years + this is the first thing that has really helped my pain , besides meds + applying ice . I`ve only been going for 3 months + I have so much relief from pain in my upper back + groin .

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