Pain treatment of fibromyalgia by acupuncture
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The lack of objective parameters makes the measurement of pain and the efficacy of pain treatment in patients with chronic pain very difficult. We performed acupuncture therapy in fibromyalgia patients and established a combination of methods to objectify pain measurement before and after therapy. The parameters corresponded to patients' self-report. Twenty-nine fibromyalgia patients as defined by ACR-criteria (25 women, 4 men) with a mean age of 48.2±2.0 years and a mean disease duration of 6.1±1.0 years participated in the study. Pain levels and positive tender points were assessed using the visual analogue scale (VAS, i.e., range 0–100 mm) and dolorimetry. Serotonin and substance P levels in serum and the serotonin concentration in platelets were measured concomitantly. During acupuncture therapy no analgesic medication was allowed. The VAS scores decreased from 64.0±3.4 mm before therapy to 34.5±4.3 mm after therapy (P<0.001). Dolorimetry revealed a decreased number of tender points after therapy from 16.0±0.6 to 11.8±1.0, P<0.01. Serotonin levels decreased from 715.8±225.8 μg/1012 platelets to 352.4±47.9 μg/1012 platelets (P<0.01), whereas the serum concentration increased from 134.0±14.3 ng/ml to 171.2±14.6 ng/ml (P<0.01). Substance P levels in serum increased from 43.4±3.5 pg/ml to 66.9 ±8.8 pg/ml (P<0.01). Acupuncture treatment of patients with fibromyalgia was associated with decreased pain levels and fewer positive tender points as measured by VAS and dolorimetry. This was accompanied by decreased serotonin concentration in platelets and an increase of serotonin and substance P levels in serum. These results suggest that acupuncture therapy is associated with changes in the concentrations of pain-modulating substances in serum. The preliminary results are objective parameters for acupuncture efficacy in patients with fibromyalgia.