Individualized acupuncture in a group setting significantly decreases fatigue and pain in fibromyalgia patients, compared with standard group therapy, a controlled clinical trial suggests.
Led by researchers at Oregon Health and Science University, the study, “Randomized Controlled Trial of Acupuncture for Women with Fibromyalgia: Group Acupuncture with Traditional Chinese Medicine Diagnosis-Based Point Selection,” was published in the journal Pain Medicine.
The trial (NCT02053090) included 30 fibromyalgia patients with moderate to severe pain, who were randomized to either undergo sessions of acupuncture or standard educational group therapy. All participants were asked to complete a health assessment on fibromyalgia symptoms and overall impact on their daily lives.
Acupuncture sessions occurred twice a week for 10 weeks. The roughly 40-minute sessions took place in a room where patients were able to talk to each other. The sessions were personalized to each patient according to the traditional Chinese medicine style of diagnosis, which included pulse and tongue examination as well as in-depth patient interviews.
“While fibromyalgia is a single diagnosis within biomedicine, individuals with fibromyalgia have several different Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnoses,” the researchers said.
“Fixed protocols [from western medicine] do not take advantage of greater refinement of the population and the different treatment approaches [of Chinese medicine] used in treating each of these ‘subcategories,’ ” they said. “Group acupuncture is a treatment model that is frequently used in Asia and is increasingly being implemented here in the United States.”
Patients in the educational arm participated in group discussion on chapters from a book related to issues of current understanding of fibromyalgia and treatment options.
At the end of the treatment, no significant improvement in overall quality of life was observed in the educational group. But those who underwent group acupuncture showed significant improvements, which were sustained and even improved four weeks after treatment. Fatigue scores in this group improved by 25%, and pain decreased by 2.8 points.
Previous research has found that group therapy can be beneficial for fibromyalgia patients. However, these findings suggest that group therapy “is not sufficient for improvement,” and should “be matched with the proper treatment,” according to the researchers.
This study supports the use of personalized acupuncture as a potential therapeutic option for fibromyalgia patients whose symptoms are not manageable with standard therapies.