Acupuncture for treating fibromyalgia

Evidence Summaries

Level of Evidence = D
Acupuncture might possibly be useful in reducing symptoms of some patients with fibromyalgia.

The quality of evidence is downgraded by imprecise results (few patients, wide confidence intervals) and inconsistency.

A Cochrane review 1 included 9 studies with a total of 395 subjects. Three studies utilised electro-acupuncture (EA) with the remainder using manual acupuncture (MA) without electrical stimulation. All studies used 'formula acupuncture' except for one, which used trigger points.

Low quality evidence from one study with only 13 participants showed that EA compared to non-acupuncture improved mean pain, global well-being, stiffness and fatique up to 1 month of treatment.

Moderate quality evidence from six studies (286 participants) indicated that acupuncture (EA or MA) was no better than sham acupuncture, except for less stiffness at one month. Subgroup analysis of two studies (104 participants) indicated benefits of EA in reducing pain, global well-being and sleep.

Moderate quality evidence from one study (58 participants) found that compared with standard therapy alone (antidepressants and exercise), adjunct acupuncture therapy reduced pain at one month after treatment.

Low quality evidence from one study (38 participants) showed a short-term benefit of acupuncture over antidepressants in pain relief.

Moderate-quality evidence from one study (41 participants) indicated that deep needling with or without deqi did not differ in pain, fatigue, function or adverse events. Other outcomes were not reported.

Four studies reported no differences between acupuncture and control or other treatments described at six to seven months follow-up.

No serious adverse events were reported, but there were insufficient adverse events to be certain of the risks.

Date of latest search: 2012-01-15


1. Deare JC, Zheng Z, Xue CC et al. Acupuncture for treating fibromyalgia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013;5():CD007070.  [PMID:23728665]

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