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Literature on Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM)

Assefi NP, Sherman KJ, Jacobsen C, Goldberg J, Smith WR, Buchwald D. A randomized clinical trial of acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture in fibromyalgia. Ann Intern Med 2005; 143(1):10-19.

Abstract: BACKGROUND: Fibromyalgia is a common chronic pain condition for which patients frequently use acupuncture. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether acupuncture relieves pain in fibromyalgia. DESIGN: Randomized, sham-controlled trial in which participants, data collection staff, and data analysts were blinded to treatment group. SETTING: Private acupuncture offices in the greater Seattle, Washington, metropolitan area. PATIENTS: 100 adults with fibromyalgia. INTERVENTION: Twice-weekly treatment for 12 weeks with an acupuncture program that was specifically designed to treat fibromyalgia, or 1 of 3 sham acupuncture treatments: acupuncture for an unrelated condition, needle insertion at nonacupoint locations, or noninsertive simulated acupuncture. MEASUREMENTS: The primary outcome was subjective pain as measured by a 10-cm visual analogue scale ranging from 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst pain ever). Measurements were obtained at baseline; 1, 4, 8, and 12 weeks of treatment; and 3 and 6 months after completion of treatment. Participant blinding and adverse effects were ascertained by self-report. The primary outcomes were evaluated by pooling the 3 sham-control groups and comparing them with the group that received acupuncture to treat fibromyalgia. RESULTS: The mean subjective pain rating among patients who received acupuncture for fibromyalgia did not differ from that in the pooled sham acupuncture group (mean between-group difference, 0.5 cm [95% CI, -0.3 cm to 1.2 cm]). Participant blinding was adequate throughout the trial, and no serious adverse effects were noted. LIMITATIONS: A prescription of acupuncture at fixed points may differ from acupuncture administered in clinical settings, in which therapy is individualized and often combined with herbal supplementation and other adjunctive measures. A usual-care comparison group was not studied. CONCLUSION: Acupuncture was no better than sham acupuncture at relieving pain in fibromyalgia


Barbour C. Use of complementary and alternative treatments by individuals with fibromyalgia syndrome. J Am Acad Nurse Pract 2000; 12(8):311-316.

Abstract: Although muscle pain is the primary complaint of patients with fibromyalgia, there are myriad associated symptoms that cause them to seek healthcare. Some individuals try alternative treatments when conventional medicine does not provide symptom relief. A questionnaire was developed to collect information regarding complementary treatments and their effectiveness. Sixty individuals visited the researcher's web page and completed and submitted an online questionnaire on fibromyalgia. Literature, heat, walking, vitamins, and massage were the interventions tried most frequently. Literature, aromatherapy, support groups, heat, and massage were rated the most effective


Berman BM, Ezzo J, Hadhazy V, Swyers JP. Is acupuncture effective in the treatment of fibromyalgia? J Fam Pract 1999; 48(3):213-218.

Abstract: BACKGROUND: We conducted this study to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), report any adverse effects, and generate hypotheses for future investigation. METHODS: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Manual Therapy Information System, the Cochrane registry, the University of Maryland Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Pain, the Centralized Information Service for Complementary Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine databases for the key words "acupuncture" and "fibromyalgia." Conference abstracts, citation lists, and letters supplemented the search. We selected all randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials, or cohort studies of patients with FMS who were treated with acupuncture. Methodologic quality, sample characteristics, type of acupuncture treatment, and outcomes were extracted. Statistical pooling was not performed because of the differences in control groups. RESULTS: Seven studies (3 randomized controlled trials and 4 cohort studies) were included; only one was of high methodologic quality. The high-quality study suggests that real acupuncture is more effective than sham acupuncture for relieving pain, increasing pain thresholds, improving global ratings, and reducing morning stiffness of FMS, but the duration of benefit following the acupuncture treatment series is not known. Some patients report no benefit, and a few report an exacerbation of FMS-related pain. Lower- quality studies were consistent with these findings. Booster doses of acupuncture to maintain benefit once regular treatments have stopped have been described anecdotally but not investigated in controlled trials. CONCLUSIONS: The limited amount of high-quality evidence suggests that real acupuncture is more effective than sham acupuncture for improving symptoms of patients with FMS. However, because this conclusion is based on a single high-quality study, further high- quality randomized trials are needed to provide more robust data on effectiveness


Breuer GS, Orbach H, Elkayam O, Berkun Y, Paran D, Mates M et al. Perceived efficacy among patients of various methods of complementary alternative medicine for rheumatologic diseases. Clin Exp Rheumatol 2005; 23(5):693-696.

Abstract: OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this cross-sectional survey was to obtain and analyze data on self-perceived efficacy of different types of complementary alternative medicine (CAM) by patients with various rheumatologic conditions. METHODS: Patients followed in rheumatology outpatient clinics were screened for the use of CAM. Patients reporting the use of CAM were asked to participate in face-to-face structured interviews, specifying the various CAM types they used, and grading their subjective impression of efficacy of each CAM type on a scale of 1-10. RESULTS: 350 consecutive patients were screened and 148 reported using CAM. In general, homeopathy and acupuncture were the most commonly used CAM types (44% and 41% of the CAM users, respectively). The mean number of different CAM methods used by a CAM user was 1.9 +/- 1.1. Patients with fibromyalgia used significantly more CAM methods (2.7 +/- 1.4, p = 0.005). On patients' self-perceived efficacy scale of 1-10, the mean score of the whole group was 5.3 +/- 3.2. Acupuncture and homeopathy achieved significantly higher self-perceived efficacy scores in CAM users with spondylo-arthropathies and osteoarthritis, respectively, when compared to some of the other disease groups. Satisfaction was lowest among CAM users with rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis and connective tissue diseases. CONCLUSION: In general, CAM users were less than moderately satisfied with self-perceived-efficacy of CAM therapies. However efficacy of specific CAM methods differed significantly among patients in different disease groups


Crofford LJ, Appleton BE. Complementary and alternative therapies for fibromyalgia. Curr Rheumatol Rep 2001; 3(2):147-156

Abstract: Fibromyalgia (FM) is a syndrome of chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain that is accompanied by sleep disturbance and fatigue. Clinical treatment usually includes lifestyle modifications and pharmacologic interventions meant to relieve pain, improve sleep quality, and treat mood disorders. These therapies are often ineffective or have been shown in clinical studies to have only short-term effectiveness. Pharmacologic treatments have considerable side effects. Patients may have difficulty complying with exercise-based treatments. Thus, patients seek alternative therapeutic approaches and physicians are routinely asked for advice about these treatments. This article reviews nontraditional treatment alternatives, from use of nutritional and herbal supplements to acupuncture and mind-body therapy. Little is known about efficacy and tolerance of complementary and alternative therapies in FM and other chronic musculoskeletal pain syndromes. Most studies on these treatments have been performed for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or focal musculoskeletal conditions. Clinical trials are scarce; the quality of these trials is often criticized because of small study population size, lack of appropriate control interventions, poor compliance, or short duration of follow-up. However, because of widespread and growing use of alternative medicine, especially by persons with chronic illnesses, it is essential to review efficacy and adverse effects of complementary and alternative therapies


Ernst E. Musculoskeletal conditions and complementary/alternative medicine. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol 2004; 18(4):539-556.

Abstract: Complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) is immensely popular for musculoskeletal conditions. It is, therefore, essential to define CAM's value for such indications. This chapter summarises the trial data for or against CAM as a symptomatic treatment for back pain, fibromyalgia, neck pain, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Collectively the evidence demonstrates that some CAM modalities show significant promise, e.g. acupuncture, diets, herbal medicine, homoeopathy, massage, supplements. None of the treatments in question is totally devoid of risks. By and large the data are not compelling, not least due to their paucity and methodological limitations. It is, therefore, concluded that our research efforts must be directed towards defining which form of CAM generates more good than harm for which condition


Harris RE, Tian X, Williams DA, Tian TX, Cupps TR, Petzke F et al. Treatment of fibromyalgia with formula acupuncture: investigation of needle placement, needle stimulation, and treatment frequency. J Altern Complement Med 2005; 11(4):663-671.

Abstract: Objectives: The objective of this study was to investigate whether typical acupuncture methods such as needle placement, needle stimulation, and treatment frequency were important factors in fibromyalgia symptom improvement. Design/settings/subjects: A single-site, single-blind, randomized trial of 114 participants diagnosed with fibromyalgia for at least 1 year was performed. Intervention: Participants were randomized to one of four treatment groups: (1) T/S needles placed in traditional sites with manual needle stimulation (n = 29): (2) T/0 traditional needle location without stimulation (n = 30); (3) N/S needles inserted in nontraditional locations that were not thought to be acupuncture sites, with stimulation (n = 28); and (4) N/0 nontraditional needle location without stimulation (n = 2 7). All groups received treatment once weekly, followed by twice weekly, and finally three times weekly, for a total of 18 treatments. Each increase in frequency was separated by a 2-week washout period. Outcome measures: Pain was assessed by a numerical rating scale, fatigue by the Multi-dimensional Fatigue Inventory, and physical function by the Short Form-36. Results: Overall pain improvement was noted with 25%-35% of subjects having a clinically significant decrease in pain; however this was not dependent upon "correct" needle stimulation (t = 1.03; p = 0.307) or location (t = 0.76; p = 0.450). An overall dose effect of treatment was observed, with three sessions weekly providing more analgesia than sessions once weekly (t = 2.10; p = 0.039). Among treatment responders, improvements in pain, fatigue, and physical function were highly codependent (all p </= 0.002). Conclusions: Although needle insertion led to analgesia and improvement in other somatic symptoms, correct needle location and stimulation were not crucial


Holdcraft LC, Assefi N, Buchwald D. Complementary and alternative medicine in fibromyalgia and related syndromes. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol 2003; 17(4):667-683.

Abstract: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has gained increasing popularity, particularly among individuals with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) for which traditional medicine has generally been ineffective. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and non-RCTs on CAM studies for FMS was conducted to evaluate the empirical evidence for their effectiveness. Few RCTs achieved high scores on the CONSORT, a standardized evaluation of the quality of methodology reporting. Acupuncture, some herbal and nutritional supplements (magnesium, SAMe) and massage therapy have the best evidence for effectiveness with FMS. Other CAM therapies have either been evaluated in only one RCT with positive results (Chlorella, biofeedback, relaxation), in multiple RCTs with mixed results (magnet therapies), or have positive results from studies with methodological flaws (homeopathy, botanical oils, balneotherapy, anthocyanidins, dietary modifications). Lastly, other CAM therapies have neither well-designed studies nor positive results and are not currently recommended for FMS treatment (chiropractic care)


Lind BK, Lafferty WE, Tyree PT, Diehr PK, Grembowski DE. Use of complementary and alternative medicine providers by fibromyalgia patients under insurance coverage. Arthritis Rheum 2007; 57(1):71-76.

Abstract: OBJECTIVE: To quantify how visits and expenditures differ between insured patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) who visit complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers compared with patients with FMS who do not. Patients with FMS were also compared with an age- and sex-matched comparison group without FMS. METHODS: Calendar year 2002 claims data from 2 large insurers in Washington state were analyzed for provider type (CAM versus conventional), patient comorbid medical conditions, number of visits, and expenditures. RESULTS: Use of CAM by patients with FMS was 2.5 times higher than in the comparison group without FMS (56% versus 21%). Patients with FMS who used CAM had more health care visits than patients with FMS not using CAM (34 versus 23; P < 0.001); however, CAM users had similar expenditures to nonusers among patients with FMS ($4,638 versus $4,728; not significant), because expenditure per CAM visit is lower than expenditure per conventional visit. Patients with FMS who used CAM also had heavier overall disease burdens than those not using CAM. CONCLUSION: With insurance coverage, a majority of patients with FMS will visit CAM providers. The sickest patients use more CAM, leading to an increased number of health care visits. However, CAM use is not associated with higher overall expenditures. Until a cure for FMS is found, CAM providers may offer an economic alternative for patients with FMS seeking symptomatic relief


Martin DP, Sletten CD, Williams BA, Berger IH. Improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms with acupuncture: results of a randomized controlled trial. Mayo Clin Proc 2006; 81(6):749-757.

Abstract: OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that acupuncture improves symptoms of fibromyalgia. PATIENTS AND METHODS: We conducted a prospective, partially blinded, controlled, randomized clinical trial of patients receiving true acupuncture compared with a control group of patients who received simulated acupuncture. All patients met American College of Rheumatology criteria for fibromyalgia and had tried conservative symptomatic treatments other than acupuncture. We measured symptoms with the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) and the Multidimensional Pain Inventory at baseline, immediately after treatment, and at 1 month and 7 months after treatment. The trial was conducted from May 28, 2002, to August 18, 2003. RESULTS: Fifty patients participated in the study: 25 in the acupuncture group and 25 in the control group. Total fibromyalgia symptoms, as measured by the FIQ, were significantly improved in the acupuncture group compared with the control group during the study period (P = .01). The largest difference in mean FIQ total scores was observed at 1 month (42.2 vs 34.8 in the control and acupuncture groups, respectively; P = .007). Fatigue and anxiety were the most significantly improved symptoms during the follow-up period. However, activity and physical function levels did not change. Acupuncture was well tolerated, with minimal adverse effects. CONCLUSION: This study paradigm allows for controlled and blinded clinical trials of acupuncture. We found that acupuncture significantly improved symptoms of fibromyalgia. Symptomatic improvement was not restricted to pain relief and was most significant for fatigue and anxiety


Mayhew E, Ernst E. Acupuncture for fibromyalgia--a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2006; 19;.

Abstract: Objective. Acupuncture is often used and frequently advocated for the symptomatic treatment of fibromyalgia. A systematic review has previously demonstrated encouraging findings. As it is now outdated, we wanted to update it. Methods. We searched seven electronic databases for relevant randomized clinical trials (RCTs). The data were extracted and validated independently by both authors. As no meta-analysis seemed possible, the results were evaluated in narrative form. Results. Five RCTs met our inclusion criteria, all of which used acupuncture as an adjunct to conventional treatments. Their methodological quality was mixed and frequently low. Three RCTs suggested positive but mostly short-lived effects and two yielded negative results. There was no significant difference between the quality of the negative and the positive RCTs. All positive RCTs used electro-acupunture. Conclusion. The notion that acupuncture is an effective symptomatic treatment for fibromyaligia is not supported by the results from rigorous clinical trials. On the basis of this evidence, acupuncture cannot be recommended for fibromyalgia


Sarac AJ, Gur A. Complementary and alternative medical therapies in fibromyalgia. Curr Pharm Des 2006; 12(1):47-57.

Abstract: This article describes the studies that have been performed evaluating complementary or alternative medical (CAM) therapies for efficacy and some adverse events fibromyalgia (FM). There is no permanent cure for FM; therefore, adequate symptom control should be goal of treatment. Clinicians can choose from a variety of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic modalities. Unfortunately, controlled studies of most current treatments have failed to demonstrate sustained, clinically significant responses. CAM has gained increasing popularity, particularly among individuals with FM for which traditional medicine has generally been ineffective. Some herbal and nutritional supplements (magnesium, S- adenosylmethionine) and massage therapy have the best evidence for effectiveness with FM. Other CAM therapies such as chlorella, biofeedback, relaxation have either been evaluated in only one randomised controlled trials (RCT) with positive results, in multiple RCTs with mixed results (magnet therapies) or have positive results from studies with methodological flaws (homeopathy, botanical oils, balneotherapy, anthocyanidins and dietary modifications). Another CAM therapy such as chiropractic care has neither well-designed studies nor positive results and is not currently recommended for FM treatment. Once CAM therapies have been better evaluated for safety and long-term efficacy in randomised, placebo-controlled trials, they may prove to be beneficial in treatments for FM. It would then be important to assess studies assessing cost-benefit analyses comparing conventional therapies and CAM


Singh BB, Wu WS, Hwang SH, Khorsan R, Der-Martirosian C, Vinjamury SP et al. Effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Altern Ther Health Med 2006; 12(2):34-41.

Abstract: CONTEXT: Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a prevalent musculoskeletal disorder associated with pain, mood state alteration, and disability. A structured and effective treatment plan for palliative care has not been established. The genesis of FMS is not clear. FMS occurs primarily in adult women. DESIGN: Using a quasi-experimental clinical design and following the criteria of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), for FMS, 21 participants completed the study. The mean age was 53.6 years. The data were collected at baseline and at 1 and 2 months. Acupuncture treatments included 17 points for FMS symptoms, and 8 outcome measures were collected. RESULTS: The Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) showed significant differences at 1 and 2 months. For the SF-12, 3 subscales showed significant differences between baseline and 2 months. Four of 6 items were significantly changed. The mean number of general health symptoms was significantly decreased by 2 months. For the Catastrophe Index, significant differences were found for baseline vs 2 months. Pain threshold scores were significantly different at end of treatment for 5 bilateral tender points. There was significant improvement in Beck Depression items for both 1- and 2-month periods. In a multivariate regression model, 5 covariates were included--age, number of weeks in treatment, number of doctors treating, number of general symptoms, and baseline FIQ score. The results indicated significant age effect. This analysis showed that the higher the FIQ score, the more positive the change experienced by study participants. Number of weeks in treatment, number of doctors who treated, and total number of general health symptoms did not have a significant effect on outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: Significant improvement was experienced by participants at 8 weeks of treatment. Acupuncture treatment as delivered was effective at reducing FMS symptoms in this outcome study


Targino RA, Imamura M, Kaziyama HH, Souza LP, Hsing WT, Imamura ST. Pain treatment with acupuncture for patients with fibromyalgia. Curr Pain Headache Rep 2002; 6(5):379-383.

Abstract: Fibromyalgia is a chronic, painful musculoskeletal syndrome of unknown etiopathogenesis. In addition to medicamentous and physical and psychologic therapies, several other adjunct therapies have been used as alternatives in the attempt to obtain analgesia and decrease the symptoms that are characteristic of this problem. This article presents a literary review on the use of acupuncture as an adjunct or chief treatment for patients with fibromyalgia, comparing it with an ongoing clinical experience that has been carried out at Hospital das Clinicas in the city of Sao Paulo. The results were found by applying traditional acupuncture, which demonstrated positive rates in the Visual Analogue Scale, myalgic index, number of tender points, and improvement in quality of life based on the SF-36 questionnaire


Wahner-Roedler DL, Elkin PL, Vincent A, Thompson JM, Oh TH, Loehrer LL et al. Use of complementary and alternative medical therapies by patients referred to a fibromyalgia treatment program at a tertiary care center. Mayo Clin Proc 2005; 80(1):55-60.

Abstract: OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the frequency and pattern of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use in patients referred to a fibromyalgia treatment program at a tertiary care center. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Patients referred to the Mayo Fibromyalgia Treatment Program between February 2003 and July 2003 were invited on their initial visit to participate in a survey regarding CAM use during the previous 6 months. An 85-question survey that addressed different CAM domains was used. RESULTS: Of the 304 patients invited to participate, 289 (95%) completed the survey (263 women and 26 men). Ninety-eight percent of the patients had used some type of CAM therapy during the previous 6 months. The 10 most frequently used CAM treatments were exercise for a specific medical problem (48%), spiritual healing (prayers) (45%), massage therapy (44%), chiropractic treatments (37%), vitamin C (35%), vitamin E (31%), magnesium (29%), vitamin B complex (25%), green tea (24%), and weight-loss programs (20%). CONCLUSION: CAM use is common in patients referred to a fibromyalgia treatment program.

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