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Fibromyalgia - acupuncture And Placebo Effect

Fibromyalgia & Acupuncture
Is It Just The Placebo Effect?

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Does acupuncture really have an effect on easing Fibromyalgia symptoms or is it just the placebo effect?

Find out more below...


As we've seen on the previous page about Fibromyalgia & TCM acupuncture, there have been positive results in studies of fibromyalgia and acupuncture. But is it really safe to say that acupuncture definitely helps Fibromyalgia?

Well it depends on which studies you believe because there are some studies out there that suggest that acupuncture actually does nothing for Fibromyalgia…

For example, according to Elisabeth Deffner, a study undertaken at the University of Washington found that there was no more improvement in the patients who had had acupuncture treatments than in those who had ‘pretend’ treatments. A ‘pretend’ acupuncture treatment could be where needles do not actually go into the skin, or where they are not placed in the right locations on the body. Drawing from these particular studies, some say that the ‘pretend’ treatments have just as positive effect on Fibromyalgia sufferers as real acupuncture does. [ref 38]

However the differences in results may have to do with the different ways in which the studies are done:

"There are lots of reasons that studies can get contradictory results. The patient populations—even if of the same disease—can be different in terms of severity of disease or other characteristics that influence likelihood of getting better—say, whether they're on disability or not. Not even all effective treatments will work for all groups of patients."

-- Karen Sherman, Ph.D., University of Washington
[ref 39]

Fibromyalgia & Acupuncture : Is It Just The Placebo Effect?

Here's where it gets interesting...

Research also reveals that the placebo effect seems to play an interesting role in chronic pain and fibromyalgia sufferers. It seems that you really can apparently make your brain release its own natural painkillers (endorphins) just by believing a medicine will relieve your pain

Dr Daniel Clauw (quoted below) was part of a team of researchers who took part in a University of Michigan study which investigated the placebo effect on fibromyalgia sufferers:

"There is substantial evidence that the placebo effect has strong biological underpinnings, and that some individuals are more likely than others to demonstrate [the placebo] effect. (…) This study suggests individuals with greater hour-to-hour and day-to-day variability in their pain may be more likely to be placebo responders."

-- Dr Daniel Clauw, Director of the University of Michigan Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center [ref 40] --


And Dr Jon-Kar Zubieta, lead author in another study of the placebo effect (at the same institution) emphasizes that apparently, the placebo effect is not phsychological:

"We were able to see that the endorphin system was activated in pain-related areas of the brain, and that activity increased when someone was told they were receiving a medicine to ease their pain. They then reported feeling less pain. The mind-body connection is quite clear."

-- Jon-Kar Zubieta, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Radiology at the U-M Medical School & Associate Research Scientist at MBNI [ref 41] --


If Dr Clauw’s findings are correct, then this makes it even more difficult to determine whether the studies which contradict acupuncture’s efficacy for easing Fibromyalgia symptoms can be trusted or not. Indeed, it’s all very confusing!

So What’s The Verdict?

When it comes to figuring out whether acupuncture can ease your fibromyalgia symptoms or not, it still seems to be a case of trial and error. There certainly doesn’t seem to be a definitive verdict on whether acupuncture really does help fibromyalgia or not. But overall, the majority of studies and reviews I have come across have been positive.

According to US-based licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, Leena Sikand-Cook [ref 33], a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 1998 revealed that:

  • doctors referred their patients to acupuncturists more than any other alternative therapists; and that

  • 51% of doctors believed that acupuncture was effective.

That study was undertaken only a year after it was formally recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Since then, TCM acunpuncture has grown in popularity.
Yet there is still no definitive answer. It really does seem to depend on each individual Fibromyalgia sufferer.

To help you make up your mind though, I’ll leave you with two last quotes from medical professionals who are experienced in acupuncture and Fibromyalgia:

"[Fibromyalgia] patients not getting enough results from drug therapy should try honest acupuncture. It really works."

-- Dr. Daniel Feldman, head of Rheumatology at the Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil [ref 37] --

I think the bottom line is that fibromyalgia symptoms probably do respond to acupuncture, although I wouldn’t expect that acupuncture works for everyone, nor is acupuncture a cure for the syndrome."

-- Dr David Martin, M. D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic Anaesthesiologist [ref 39] --



Category: Fibromyalgia : fibromyalgia , acupuncture and placebo effect : Does acupuncture ease Fibromyalgia symptoms or is it just the placebo effect?

Common misspellings of fibromyalgia : fibro myalga, fibro mialga, fibro maligia, fibro mailgia, fibro mayaglia, fibro milagia, fibro myealgeia, fibro myalja, fibro myalgea

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