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Acupunct Med. 2007 Dec;25(4):184-97.

Did 'The Princess on the Pea' suffer from fibromyalgia syndrome? The influence on sleep and the effects of acupuncture.

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Rehabilitation Medicine, University Clinic, Danderyds Hospitals, AB Stockholm, Sweden.


Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a chronic pain syndrome characterised by central sensitisation resulting in hypersentivity of the skin and deeper tissues as well as fatigue. Possibly the princess in Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Princess and the Pea' suffered from FMS since chronic sleep disturbances are typical in FMS. These sleep disturbances have been attributed to a dysfunction in the systems regulating sleep and wakefulness resulting in loss of deep sleep. In addition, many patients with FMS experience cognitive dysfunction, characterised by impaired concentration and short term memory consolidation, a complaint also commonly reported in other sleep disorders. In recent reviews evaluating the efficacy of acupuncture in FMS it has been concluded that acupuncture has no specific effect. A prerequisite for this conclusion is that all the major symptoms in the syndrome have been assessed. However, previous studies have generally focused on the pain alleviating effect of acupuncture in FMS. We have observed that not only pain but also sleep and cognitive dysfunction may be ameliorated in response to acupuncture, suggesting that these variables should be taken into account when evaluating the effects of acupuncture in FMS. Furthermore, the results demonstrated great individual variability apart from the systematic effects related to the group, indicating that individually performed treatment strategies are required. Our suggestion is supported by experimental and clinical studies showing that acupuncture may affect insomnia and alertness, and that there may be neurophysiologic bases for these specific effects.

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