Nine weekly sessions of tailored acupuncture each lasting 20 minutes may reduce perceived pain intensity, and improve quality of life, in people with the chronic pain condition, fibromyalgia, a new study has claimed.
The beneficial effects were still evident a year later, researchers said.
Fibromyalgia is primarily characterised by chronic widespread pain that is associated with fatigue, disordered sleep patterns, and/or depression. It affects up to one in 20 people, researchers wrote in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine.
The researchers compared individually tailored acupuncture treatment with sham treatment in 153 adults, all of whom had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
Both the real and simulated treatments, to which participants were randomly assigned, were provided in nine weekly sessions, each lasting 20 minutes.
Participants continued to take the usual drugs they had been prescribed to alleviate symptoms (painkillers and antidepressants).
To evaluate the impact of both approaches, participants were asked about perceived levels of pain, depression, and health related quality of life (physical and mental), using validated scoring systems before treatment began, and then again 10 weeks, 6 months, and 12 months afterwards.
They were also asked about changes in the overall impact of their condition, as measured by the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, or FIQ for short, at 10 weeks, 6 and 12 months.
Analysis of the results showed that after 10 weeks, perceived pain intensity was lower among those given real acupuncture.
Their pain scores had dropped by an average of 41 per cent, compared with an average of 27 per cent for those given the simulated treatment.
Significant differences persisted after a year, with an average fall of 20 per cent in the pain score among those treated with the real thing compared with just over 6 per cent for those given the simulated treatment.
FIQ scores also differed significantly between the two groups at all three time points, with reductions of 35 per cent, 25 per cent, and just over 22 per cent for those given tailored acupuncture compared with 24.5 per cent, just over 11 per cent, and 5 per cent, for those given simulated acupuncture.
Other aspects of pain intensity, including pressure pain threshold and the number of tender points also improved significantly more in the group given real acupuncture after 10 weeks, as did measures of fatigue, anxiety and depression.