The Impact of Auricular Vagus Nerve Stimulation on Pain and Life Quality in Patients with Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Biomed Res Int. 2020 Feb 28:2020:8656218. doi: 10.1155/2020/8656218. eCollection 2020.


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the impact of auricular vagus nerve stimulation, applied in conjunction with an exercise treatment program, on pain and life quality in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). To achieve the study objectives, 60 female patients between the ages 18 and 50, with diagnosed FMS according to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 2010 diagnostic criteria, were randomly divided into 2 groups of 30. The first group was assigned 20 sessions of a home-based exercise program, while the second group was assigned 20 sessions of auricular vagus nerve stimulation and 20 sessions of a home-based exercise program. Patients were assessed before and after the treatments using the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) for pain, Beck Depression Scale for depression, Beck Anxiety Scale for anxiety, Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) for functional evaluation, and Short Form-36 (SF-36) for life quality. In this randomized controlled trial, comparisons within the groups revealed that both groups had statistically significant improvements in pain, depression, anxiety, functionality, and life quality scores (p < 0.05), while comparisons across the groups revealed that the group experiencing the vagus nerve stimulation had no statistically significant differences between the baseline scores, except for those of SF-36's subparameters of physical function, social functionality, and pain. In fact, comparisons across the groups after the interventions revealed that the group experiencing the vagus nerve stimulation had better scores but not statistically significant. From analysis of this data, we observed that vagus nerve stimulation in FMS treatment did not give additional benefit together with exercise, except for three subparameters of SF-36. It was identified that further studies which separately investigate the effects of vagus nerve stimulation and exercise on FMS with longer follow-up periods and an increased number of patients are needed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Electrodes
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patients
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Quality of Life*
  • Rheumatology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vagus Nerve Stimulation / methods*
  • Visual Analog Scale
  • Young Adult