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Study Recommends Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia Pain

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

A study entitled, "Fibromyalgia syndrome treated with acupuncture at the acupoints of the affected meridians and heavy moxibustion at painful points: a randomized, controlled trial," yielded some surprising, positive results. The article appeared in the medical journal Zhongguo Zhen Jiu in February 2016.

Researchers sought a viable, safe alternative to managing symptoms of fibromyalgia, instead of resorting to pharmaceuticals. They put acupuncture and moxibustion to the test.

Moxibustion is a heat therapy that involves igniting a dried form of the herb mugwort. The heat and smoke from the burning herb enter the body and can provide pain relief.

This trial consisted of 32 patients, all diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Half the participants were put into a group receiving a combination of acupuncture and moxibustion treatments. The other half received conventional drug therapy, consisting of tramadol sustained-release tablets and amitriptyline.

The acupuncture/moxibustion (AM) group underwent treatments every other day, for a total of 4 weeks. The drug therapy group (DT) took their prescribed medications everyday, also for a total of 4 weeks.

Before and after every treatment, researchers discerned the patient's level of pain by using a couple of medical tools—the visual analog scale (VAS) and the revised fibromyalgia impact questionnaire (FIQR). These questionnaires were also filled out by all the study participants in a follow-up evaluation, at 4 weeks post-treatment.

The acupuncture points used for each patient differed according to their specific area of pain. This is also true of the points selected for moxibustion. Tender, painful parts of the body were chosen as the sites where moxibustion was applied.

After each treatment, researchers observed a significant decrease in pain for participants in both groups. At the one-month mark, the trial concluded that both still enjoyed the benefits of their respective treatments.

However, this was not the case at the follow-up evaluation, which occurred 1 month after the experiment ended. It was only the AM group of patients who still maintained a remarkable drop in their pain levels at 4 weeks post-treatment! This was not the case for the DT group, who experienced a rise in their levels of pain.

Researchers recommend the use of acupuncture and moxibustion to manage the pain associated with fibromyalgia. In the long-term, it is more effective than drug therapy. Acupuncture and moxibustion also proved to be safe, with little to no adverse effects.

Source: Li D, Yang L, Li J. (2016). Fibromyalgia syndrome treated with acupuncture at the acupoints of the affected meridians and heavy moxibustion at painful points: a randomized, controlled trial. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. Retrieved from 

Contact an acupuncturist today to schedule an appointment or to learn more about acupuncture and Oriental medicine.

About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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