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Altern Ther Health Med. 2013 Jul-Aug;19(4):21-6.

Acupuncture for chronic fatigue syndrome: a randomized, sham-controlled trial with single-blinded design.

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Department of Social Work and Social Administration, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.



Given that the etiology of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is believed to be multidimensional, interventions generally have been nonspecific and typically produce only mild to moderate effects. In medical practice, treatment for CFS remains largely symptomatic. Preliminary evidence of the efficacy of acupuncture for CFS is available, but the field has lacked high-quality trials.


The research team conducted the study to determine the efficacy of acupuncture for CFS.


A two-arm, randomized, controlled, singleblinded design was adopted.


The study took place in a teaching laboratory at the School of Chinese Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.


Recruited through press publicity in Hong Kong, 127 individuals--40 men and 87 women--participated in the study. Intervention Through careful implementation of sham acupuncture in the control group (CG), the study blinded all participants with regard to their experimental or control status. The treatment regime was 2 sessions/wk for 4 consecutive wk.


Measures of fatigue (Chalder's Fatigue Scale), health-related quality of life (SF-12), and general mental health (GH Q-12) were taken at baseline and upon completion of treatment.


Ninety-nine participants completed the interventions, with 50 and 49 participants in the experimental group (EG) and CG respectively. Repeated measures ANOVA revealed a significant decrease in physical (F(1,93) = 4.327; P = .040) and mental fatigue (F(1,96) = 10.451; P = .002) and improvement in the physical component score of SF-12 (F(1,93) = 4.774; P = .031). Considerable effects with Cohen's d were observed in the sham-control group: 0.92, 0.78, and 0.38 for the three scores, respectively. These positive effects could have included some therapeutic effects due to pressure on the acupuncture points from the sham needles in addition to normal placebo effects. The EG showed moderate net effect sizes with Cohen's d: 0.52, 0.63, and 0.54 for the three outcome measures, respectively.


Despite considerable positive effects for the CG, the EG demonstrated significant net-effect sizes at a moderate magnitude in physical and mental fatigue and in the physical component of health-related quality of life. The impacts on general mental health outcomes appeared to be smaller.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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