Randomized Controlled Trial of Acupuncture for Women with Fibromyalgia: Group Acupuncture with Traditional Chinese Medicine Diagnosis-Based Point Selection

Pain Med. 2018 Sep 1;19(9):1862-1871. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnx322.


Background: Group acupuncture is a growing and cost-effective method for delivering acupuncture in the United States and is the practice model in China. However, group acupuncture has not been tested in a research setting.

Objective: To test the treatment effect of group acupuncture vs group education in persons with fibromyalgia.

Design: Random allocation two-group study with repeated measures.

Setting: Group clinic in an academic health center in Portland, Oregon.

Subjects: Women with confirmed diagnosis of fibromyalgia (American College of Radiology 1990 criteria) and moderate to severe pain levels.

Methods: Twenty treatments of a manualized acupuncture treatment based on Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis or group education over 10 weeks (both 900 minutes total). Weekly Revised Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQR) and Global Fatigue Index at baseline, five weeks, and 10 weeks and a four-week follow-up were assessed.

Results: Thirty women were recruited, with 78% reporting symptoms for longer than 10 years. The mean attendance was 810 minutes for acupuncture and 861 minutes for education. FIQR total, FIQR pain, and Global Fatigue Index all had clinically and statistically significant improvement in the group receiving acupuncture at end of treatment and four weeks post-treatment but not in participants receiving group education between groups.

Conclusions: Compared with education, group acupuncture improved global symptom impact, pain, and fatigue. Furthermore, it was a safe and well-tolerated treatment option, improving a broader proportion of patients than current pharmaceutical options.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional*
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/NCT02053090