Acupuncture has been proven beneficial in alleviating pain triggered by fibromyalgia, in a recent study made public on Monday, February 15.
The findings, presented in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, stemmed from research led by Dr. Jorge Vas, affiliated with the Pain Treatment Unit at the Dona Mercedes Primary Health Center from Seville, Spain.
Vas and his fellow researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial which included a group of 153 individuals suffering from fibromyalgia.
This rheumatic disorder, which is encountered across 1 in 20 Americans, manifests itself through long-term, widespread pain that affects the joints and the muscles.
Other accompanying symptoms consist in sleep problems, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, tingling and numbness of the limbs, bladder and bowel dysfunctions, migraines, anxiety and depression.
Generally, fibromyalgia is addressed through drugs such as Lyrica (Pregabalin), with acupuncture being prescribed as an alternative solely when the medicine fails to work as intended.
Lyrica is actually traditionally used against seizures, being effective as an anti-convulsant, but has also been proven helpful when it comes to providing pain relief, which is why it has become so popular as a treatment against fibromyalgia pain.
Now, study authors wanted to determine how efficient acupuncture actually is in reducing the number of tender points and the overall numbness, tingling and debilitating aches that fibromyalgia patients experience on a regular basis.
Some of the study participants benefited from genuine acupuncture sessions taking into account each individual’s Yin deficiency and liver Qi stagnation. The weekly treatments lasted 20 minutes each, for a period of 9 weeks.
Others were assigned to bogus acupuncture, which was only simulated, without being associated with any therapeutic purpose whatsoever.
For the duration of the 9-week experiment, subjects were permitted to use Lyrica just as before, but it was soon noticed that patients who had to follow acupuncture therapy gradually required smaller doses of pain relievers than individuals who were in the simulated acupuncture group.
In addition, 10 weeks after the initial trial concluded, it was discovered that fibromyalgia patients who had taken advantage of acupuncture treatments had experienced a 41.2% reduction in their widespread pain index (WPI). In contrast, people in the bogus acupuncture section only exhibited a 27.1% decrease in their level of pain.
A year afterwards, pain severity among acupuncture patients had dwindled by around 19.9%, while those in the controlled group reported just a 6.1% ebb when it came to the intensity of their aches.
Promising results were also encountered upon analyzing answers reported following the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, whose purpose is to assess how debilitating the condition is on a daily basis.
Specifically, study authors determined that acupuncture had corresponded to a 35% drop in discomfort levels after a period of 10 weeks, and a 22% downturn after 1 year had passed. In contrast, the placebo treatment had resulted in a 24.5% decline in distressing symptoms after 10 weeks, and just a 5% lessening after 12 months.
Overall, the number of tender spots where pain was the most intense decreased among acupuncture patients, and a similar abatement was also reported when it came to anxiety levels, depression, and tiredness, while the pressure pain threshold experienced a much needed increase.
Even though progress linked to acupuncture therapy is obviously substantial, it must be noted that people who had been following this treatment were also receiving more elevated amounts of antidepressants a year after the experiment ended, which likely boosted their condition even further.
Nevertheless, researchers still believe that acupuncture in itself is a worthwhile therapy, that should be used more widely against fibromyalgia, alongside conventional medication.
This opinion is also shared by Dr. Allyson Shrikhande, an expert in non-surgical orthopedics and physical medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital.
According to her, since fibromyalgia is made worse by the central nervous system, which amplifies pain, acupuncture can be extremely useful in treating the condition, by preventing pain signals from being continuously sent to the brain.
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