Objective: To determine the efficacy of electroacupuncture in patients with fibromyalgia, a syndrome of unknown origin causing diffuse musculoskeletal pain.
Design: Three weeks' randomised study with blinded patients and evaluating physician.
Setting: University divisions of physical medicine and rehabilitation and rheumatology, Geneva.
Patients: 70 patients (54 women) referred to the division for fibromyalgia as defined by the American College of Rheumatology.
Interventions: Patients were randomised to electroacupuncture (n = 36) or a sham procedure (n = 34) by means of an electronic numbers generator.
Main outcome measures: Pain threshold, number of analgesic tablets used, regional pain score, pain recorded on visual analogue scale, sleep quality, morning stiffness, and patient's and evaluating physician's appreciation.
Results: Seven of the eight outcome parameters showed a significant improvement in the active treatment group whereas none were improved in the sham treatment group. Differences between the groups were significant for five of the eight outcome measures after treatment.
Conclusions: Electroacupuncture is effective in relieving symptoms of fibromyalgia. Its potential in long term management should now be studied.