Clinical Health Updates

Questionable effectiveness of acupuncture for fibromyalgia

Clinical Question:
Is acupuncture effective in managing patients with fibromyalgia?

Bottom Line:
The body of literature evaluating acupuncture in managing patients with fibromyalgia is sparse and demonstrates small, short-lived benefits for this chronic problem. Since all the studies that found acupuncture effective also used electroacupuncture, traditional acupuncture may be of no use at all.

Mayhew E, Ernst E. Acupuncture for fibromyalgia–a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2007;46:801-804.

Study Design:
Systematic review

Acupuncture is often used and frequently advocated for the symptomatic treatment of fibromyalgia. A systematic review has previously demonstrated encouraging findings. As it is now outdated, we wanted to update it. This authors searched seven electronic databases for relevant randomized clinical trials (RCTs). The data were extracted and validated independently by both authors. As no meta-analysis seemed possible, the results were evaluated in narrative form. Five RCTs met our inclusion criteria, all of which used acupuncture as an adjunct to conventional treatments. Their methodological quality was mixed and frequently low. Three RCTs suggested positive but mostly short-lived effects and two yielded negative results. There was no significant difference between the quality of the negative and the positive RCTs. All positive RCTs used electro-acupunture.