Acupuncture relieves symptoms of fibromyalgia, Mayo Clinic study finds
26 Aug 2005
Fibromyalgia patients treated with six sessions of acupuncture experienced significant symptomatic improvement compared
group given simulated acupuncture sessions according to a new Mayo Clinic study. The findings will be presented at the
Congress of the International Association for the Study of Pain in Sydney, Australia.
"This study shows there is something real about acupuncture and its effects on fibromyalgia," says David Martin,
M.D., Ph.D., Mayo
Clinic anesthesiologist and the study's lead investigator. "Our study was performed on patients with moderate to
fibromyalgia. It's my speculation that if acupuncture works for these patients with recalcitrant fibromyalgia -- where
treatments had not provided satisfactory relief -- it would likely work for many of the millions of fibromyalgia patients."
Acupuncture could fill a gap in available therapies for the disease as something additive to what medications already
says Dr. Martin. "There's not a cure available, so patients are often left somewhat frustrated by continuing pain
and fatigue," he
says. "Acupuncture is one of the few things shown to be effective for these symptoms. It may be particularly attractive
who are unable to take medications because of intolerable side effects."
The study, conducted by Mayo Clinic physicians specializing in pain management, included 50 patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia
for whom other symptom-relief treatments were ineffective. The patients were randomly assigned to receive acupuncture
simulated acupuncture and were not informed which treatment they received; these treatments were administered in six sessions
over two to three weeks.
All patients were given questionnaires before treatment, immediately after treatment, and at one and seven months after
to determine the degree of symptoms they experienced and how the disease affected their daily lives.
Patients who received acupuncture experienced minimal side effects. Following treatments, symptoms of pain, fatigue and
were most significantly improved in the patients given acupuncture. At seven months post-treatment, the patients' symptoms
pain, anxiety and fatigue had returned to baseline levels; the patients experienced the largest improvement at one month
"We expected the acupuncture to improve the pain," says Dr. Martin. "We didn't really expect the largest
benefit to be in fatigue or
Dr. Martin hypothesizes that acupuncture affects symptoms such as anxiety and fatigue because it may target the root cause
not the daily symptoms of fibromyalgia. "In a Western view of medicine, we're modulating sensory input through acupuncture,"
says. "Whenever there's an input to the nervous system, it responds and adapts to the input -- sometimes in ways
beneficial to patients. This is not so different from the traditional Eastern explanation of acupuncture that describes
altering the flow of life energy, called Qi."
The Mayo Clinic researchers noted that although the patients saw improvement in symptoms which had reduced activity level,
physical function did not increase even though the patients were less tired and felt less pain. "This doesn't surprise
me, as we see
this pattern in other chronic pain problems: you can relieve pain, but it's a lot harder to prompt activity changes,"
says Dr. Martin. "A
chronically ill person needs more than symptom relief to resume a normal lifestyle. We're now beginning to work on that
Dr. Martin indicates that he believes the study patients would have seen sustained improvement with ongoing acupuncture.
reasonable expectation that if they received more acupuncture after two to three months, they would have maintained their
improvement," he says. "Acupuncture usually works for about three months, and then patients need a less-intensive
session. These patients would need more acupuncture periodically for as long as they experience fibromyalgia symptoms."
The patients were unable to guess whether they had been given the real or the simulated acupuncture. "This was critical,
this had been a shortcoming of other previous studies with acupuncture -- the simulated acupuncture treatments were not
believable to the patients," says Dr. Martin.
He explains that fibromyalgia patients have a nervous system disorder in which they have a "revved up pain threshold"
exacerbated by stress and inadequate sleep. "You can take blood tests, X-rays, muscle tests, and you will find nothing
he says. "Many fibromyalgia patients suffer suspicion from their spouses and friends that their symptoms are 'all
in their head' or
that they lack sufficient will or fortitude to meet their obligations to work, family and friends. Usually it comes as
a welcome diagnosis
when these patients learn it's fibromyalgia. Then they can learn ways to cope with the disorder and gain strength from
others who have the same problems."
Dr. Martin describes the patients in this study as moderately debilitated. "Many have given up work, a lot of recreational
and made adjustments in their lives," he says. "They have had a significant psychological burden as a result
of the loss of these
activities; it's become part of their identities."
This study is from the following Article URL: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/29670.php
About Fibromyalgia Syndrome
Fibromyalgia Syndrome, or FMS, is a common and chronic disorder characterized by widespread muscle pain, fatigue, and
multiple tender points. The word fibromyalgia comes from the Latin term for fibrous tissue (fibro) and the Greek ones for
muscle (myo) and pain (algia). Tender points are specific places on the body, on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, and upper
and lower extremities; where people with fibromyalgia feel pain in response to slight pressure. Although fibromyalgia is often
considered an arthritis-related condition, it is not truly a form of arthritis (a disease of the joints) because it does not
cause inflammation or damage to the joints, muscles, or other tissues. Like arthritis, however, fibromyalgia can cause significant
pain and fatigue, and it can interfere with a person's ability to carry on daily activities. Also like arthritis, fibromyalgia
is considered a rheumatic condition.
You may wonder what exactly rheumatic means. Even physicians do not always agree on whether a disease is considered rheumatic.
If you look up the word in the dictionary, you'll find it comes from the Greek word rheum, which means flux; not an explanation
that gives you a better understanding. In medicine, however, the term rheumatic means a medical condition that impairs the
joints and/or soft tissues and causes chronic pain. In addition to pain and fatigue, people who have fibromyalgia may experience
sleep disturbances, morning stiffness, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, painful menstrual periods, numbness or tingling
of the extremities, restless legs syndrome, temperature sensitivity, cognitive and memory problems (sometimes referred to
as "fibro fog"), or a variety of other symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome rather than a disease. Unlike a disease, which is a medical condition with a specific cause
or causes and recognizable signs and symptoms, a syndrome is a collection of signs, symptoms, and medical problems that tend
to occur together but are not related to a specific, identifiable cause. The causes of fibromyalgia are unknown, but there
are probably a number of factors involved. Many people associate the development of fibromyalgia with a physically or emotionally
stressful or traumatic event, such as an automobile accident. Some connect it to repetitive injuries. Others link it to an
illness. People with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, are particularly likely to develop
fibromyalgia. For others, fibromyalgia seems to occur spontaneously. Many researchers are examining other causes, including
problems with how the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) processes pain. Some scientists speculate that a
person's genes may regulate the way his or her body processes painful stimuli. According to this theory, people with fibromyalgia
may have a gene or genes that cause them to react strongly to stimuli that most people would not perceive as painful. However,
those genes; if they, in fact, exist; have not been identified.
A diagnosis is based on two criteria established by the ACR: a history of widespread pain lasting more than 3 months and
the presence of tender points. Pain is considered to be widespread when it affects all four quadrants of the body; that is,
you must have pain in both your right and left sides as well as above and below the waist to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
The ACR also has designated 18 sites on the body as possible tender points. For a fibromyalgia diagnosis, a person must have
11 or more tender points.
Current treatments include:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
From a homotoxicological perspective fibromyalgia would fall under conditions of the locomotor system (chronic rheumatoid
arthritis), a condition of matrix toxicity and would be classified under the impregnation phase. Conditions under the impregnation
phase can be specifically defined as:
Diseases in this phase are characterized by the presence of toxins which become a part of the connective tissue and the
matrix, along with changes in the structural components as well as their functions. The typically increasingly severe symptoms
and signs of this phase demonstrate damage to the cell organs.