Efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia

Orthop Rev (Pavia). 2021 Jun 22;13(2):25085. doi: 10.52965/001c.25085. eCollection 2021.


Purpose of review: Fibromyalgia is a highly prevalent chronic pain syndrome that affects up to 4% of the population and causes significant morbidity and disability, with an increasing associated cost. Though many approaches for treatment have been tested, therapy regimens are still elusive, and efficacy is limited. This review summarizes the background of fibromyalgia and acupuncture and reviews the latest and seminal literature discussing the application of acupuncture in fibromyalgia.

Recent findings: Fibromyalgia is hard to treat, owing both to its chronicity and poorly understood pathophysiology and etiology. Current treatments target symptoms primarily, and few attempt to address the source. Efficacious treatment requires long-term treatment by a multidisciplinary team. Though several treatments exist, they still fall short with a substantial number of patients. Acupuncture, a form of integrative medicine, has been a part of traditional Chinese medication for generations. Evidence shows that it effectively treats different kinds of pain conditions, including migraines and chronic musculoskeletal pain. Recent studies showed evidence to support its use in fibromyalgia. Clinical trials studying acupuncture in fibromyalgia have shown improvement in pain, quality of sleep, and quality of life, though the quality of evidence is mainly low to medium. Several studies were not able to provide evidence to support real over sham acupuncture. Weighing the overall evidence paints a picture of mixed results between equivocal results to positive. In analyzing these results, one must also consider publication bias supporting the dissemination of positive results.

Summary: An increasing number of studies support the utilization of acupuncture for the treatment of fibromyalgia. Though no head-to-head comparison was able to show the superiority of acupuncture to other therapies, mounting evidence supports its use as part of multimodal approaches to treatment with additive efficacy to traditional therapy. Further research will likely provide data on effective regimens and combination therapies.

Keywords: chronic pain; complimentary medicine; depression; needling; widespread pain.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

No funding was received for the completion of this manuscript.