Introduction: Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness that causes symptoms such as pain. In Japan, although pregabalin and duloxetine are the drugs of choice for fibromyalgia, they may be ineffective or may cause side-effects. Studies have reported on the efficacy of acupuncture against fibromyalgia. However, acupuncture is not always effective in clinical practice, and the reason for this is thought to be the dysfunction of the descending pain control system. This study aimed to determine whether the combined use of electro-scalp acupuncture and conventional electroacupuncture reduces fibromyalgia symptoms and drug dosage requirements.
Methods: Patients with intractable fibromyalgia (visual analog scale [VAS] score ≥50 mm; Japanese version of the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire [JFIQ] score ≥50) receiving pregabalin were recruited in this single-arm nonrandomized uncontrolled study. They underwent electroacupuncture on four limbs plus electro-scalp acupuncture once a week for 5 weeks. Drug intake, pain (as determined using VAS), quality of life (QOL; as determined using JFIQ), anxiety, depression, catastrophic thoughts, and sleep were assessed.
Results: Although there was no increase in drug intake, 42.8% (3/7) of patients reduced pregabalin intake by approximately 10% (a moderate though insignificant effect). Pain levels significantly declined (VAS 75.4 ± 11.7 mm to 64.3 ± 17.3 mm; P = 0.05) and QOL significantly improved (JFIQ 67.0 ± 13.4 to 50.9 ± 18.3; P = 0.02). The parameters for anxiety, depression, catastrophic thoughts, and sleep did not significantly change.
Conclusion: The combination of conventional electroacupuncture plus electro-scalp acupuncture may effectively alleviate pain, improve QOL, and reduce pregabalin dosage requirements in patients with fibromyalgia.