Background: We conducted this study to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), report any adverse effects, and generate hypotheses for future investigation.
Methods: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Manual Therapy Information System, the Cochrane registry, the University of Maryland Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Pain, the Centralized Information Service for Complementary Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine databases for the key words "acupuncture" and "fibromyalgia." Conference abstracts, citation lists, and letters supplemented the search. We selected all randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials, or cohort studies of patients with FMS who were treated with acupuncture. Methodologic quality, sample characteristics, type of acupuncture treatment, and outcomes were extracted. Statistical pooling was not performed because of the differences in control groups.
Results: Seven studies (3 randomized controlled trials and 4 cohort studies) were included; only one was of high methodologic quality. The high-quality study suggests that real acupuncture is more effective than sham acupuncture for relieving pain, increasing pain thresholds, improving global ratings, and reducing morning stiffness of FMS, but the duration of benefit following the acupuncture treatment series is not known. Some patients report no benefit, and a few report an exacerbation of FMS-related pain. Lower-quality studies were consistent with these findings. Booster doses of acupuncture to maintain benefit once regular treatments have stopped have been described anecdotally but not investigated in controlled trials.
Conclusions: The limited amount of high-quality evidence suggests that real acupuncture is more effective than sham acupuncture for improving symptoms of patients with FMS. However, because this conclusion is based on a single high-quality study, further high-quality randomized trials are needed to provide more robust data on effectiveness.