Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia Syndrome

By Jane Morris



Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a chronic complex syndrome, whose patients suffer with a broad range of symptoms which cannot be adequately addressed with conventional treatments. Many FMS sufferers use acupuncture as a potential form of treatment, yet the reasons for FMS sufferers seeking acupuncture have not yet been explored. Studies investigating the efficacy of acupuncture treatment for FMS have been inconclusive, concentrating on pain and stiffness as primary outcome measures. The effect on other commonly reported symptoms has not been considered in these studies. No studies to date have been conducted to explore the experiences of FMS sufferers receiving acupuncture.


To explore patients’ experiences of receiving traditional acupuncture (TA) for FMS.


This study conducted eight in-depth individual interviews with FMS patients and a focus group discussion. Data analysis: ‘Framework’ was the design of qualitative analysis used, as it provides a clear methodology for analysis and enables transparency of the process.


The main themes were: experiences of having FMS; motivations for seeking acupuncture; process of selection of acupuncturists; prior expectations; and experiences of receiving acupuncture. Acupuncture was sought primarily due to unmet medical needs. Several important strategies were used to choose practitioners. Experiences of acupuncture were described in terms of: process of acupuncture; perceived treatment effects ranging from physical to mental- emotional and attitude changes; and elements participants valued, such as holistic care and making lifestyle changes, with such experiences outweighing their expectations.   


FMS patients reported experiencing a broad range of treatment effects with acupuncture. In particular, they reported placing greater value on psycho-social aspects of care. These findings are at odds with outcome measures used in efficacy studies of acupuncture and FMS, which tend to focus on physical symptoms alone. This study suggests that there is a need for future efficacy studies to employ a broader range of outcome measures.