Background: The causes of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and idiopathic chronic fatigue (ICF) are not clearly known, and there are no definitive treatments for them. Therefore, patients with CFS and ICF are interested in Oriental medicine or complementary and alternative medicine. For this reason, the effectiveness of complementary and alternative treatments should be verified. We investigated the effectiveness of two forms of acupuncture added to usual care for CFS and ICF compared to usual care alone.
Methods: A three-arm parallel, non-blinded, randomized controlled trial was performed in four hospitals. We divided 150 participants into treatment and control groups at the same ratio. The treatment groups (Group A, body acupuncture; Group B, Sa-am acupuncture) received 10 sessions for 4 weeks. The control group (Group C) continued usual care alone. The primary outcome was the Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS) at 5 weeks after randomization. Secondary outcomes were the FSS at 13 weeks and a short form of the Stress Response Inventory (SRI), the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), the Numeric Rating Scale (NRS), and the EuroQol-5 Dimension (EQ-5D) at 5 and 13 weeks.
Results: Group A showed significantly lower FSS scores than Group C at 5 weeks (P = 0.023). SRI scores were significantly lower in the treatment groups than in the control group at 5 (Group A, P = 0.032; B, P <0.001) and 13 weeks (Group A, P = 0.037; B, P <0.001). Group B showed significantly lower BDI scores than Group C at 13 weeks (P = 0.007). NRS scores from the treatment groups were significantly reduced compared to control at 5 (Group A and B, P <0.001) and 13 weeks (Group A, P = 0.011; B, P = 0.002).
Conclusions: Body acupuncture for 4 weeks in addition to usual care may help improve fatigue in CFS and ICF patients.
Trial registration: Clinical Research Information Service (CRIS) KCT0000508; Registered on 12 August 2012.