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Acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia in tertiary care – a case series
  1. Barbara Duncan, consultant in pain medicine1,
  2. Adrian White, clinical research fellow2,
  3. Anisur Rahman, reader and honorary consultant in rheumatology3
  1. 1
    Pain Management Centre, The National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery, University College, London Hospitals
  2. 2
    Primary Care Research, Peninsula Medical School, Plymouth UK
  3. 3
    Centre for Rheumatology, University College, London Hospitals
  1. barbara.duncan{at}uclh.nhs.uk

Abstract

Aims Fibromyalgia is a common cause of chronic widespread pain. The benefit of medication is often limited by its side effects, and the improvements obtained with exercise and education are inconsistent. Many patients seek acupuncture treatment, which is reported to be helpful in some cases. This study aimed to explore the acceptability and benefits of acupuncture offered in the setting of a tertiary referral clinic.

Methods An open, uncontrolled observational study was conducted among patients who met the usual fibromyalgia criteria and who had a pain score of at least 30 on a 100mm Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). Patients were allowed to continue other treatments but not to introduce new ones. Acupuncture was given using a Western approach according to a protocol developed by consensus. Patients were offered eight treatments in eight weeks. Outcome measures included VAS of pain intensity and Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (range 0 – 100), and were taken before and after treatment, and at 14, 20 and 34 weeks from enrolment.

Results Twenty four eligible patients were enrolled in a 12 month period. Baseline mean pain VAS score for these 24 patients was 74 (SD 18) and mean Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire score 78 (SD 12.4). Only 14 patients completed the course of treatment within about 10 weeks. Compliance was poor in the remaining patients because of difficulty attending clinic, and in two cases because of exacerbation of pain. Completion of outcome measures was variable and therefore the analysis of data is limited. Five patients scored at least 20% reduction in Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire score which is a clinically relevant improvement. Two of these scored at least 50% reduction.

Conclusion Acupuncture appears to offer symptomatic improvement to some patients with fibromyalgia in a tertiary clinic who have failed to respond to other treatments. In view of its safety, further acupuncture research is justified in this population.

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