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Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2019 Aug 25;2019:8757685. doi: 10.1155/2019/8757685. eCollection 2019.

Comparing Verum and Sham Acupuncture in Fibromyalgia Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

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Department of Biofunctional Medicine and Diagnosis, College of Korean Medicine, Sangji University, Wonju, Republic of Korea.
Department of Anatomy, College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.



Acupuncture is often used for relieving symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). Our aim is to ascertain whether verum acupuncture is more effective than sham acupuncture in FMS.


We collected RCTs to investigate the effects of verum acupuncture and sham acupuncture on pain, sleep quality, fatigue, and general status in FMS patients. The databases used for data retrieval were PubMed, Central Cochrane, EMBASE, PsycINFO, CNKI, VIP, OASIS, KoreaMed, and RISS. Selection/exclusion from the retrieved records was performed according to prespecified criteria, and the final selected records were assessed according to the Cochrane risk of bias tool. The results of the included trials were synthesized on the basis of outcomes, and subgroup analysis depended on the type of add-on sham acupuncture that was performed.


Ten RCTs (690 participants) were eligible, and eight RCTs were eventually included in the meta-analysis. The synthesis showed a sizable effect of verum acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture on pain relief (standardized mean difference (SMD) -0.49, Z = 3.26, P=0.001; I 2 = 59%), improving sleep quality (SMD -0.46, Z = 3.24, P=0.001; I 2 = 0%), and reforming general status (SMD -0.69, Z = 6.27, P < 0.00001; I 2 = 4%). However, efficacy on fatigue was insignificant (SMD -0.10, Z = 0.51, P=0.61; I 2 = 46%). When compared with a combination of simulation and improper location of needling, the effect of verum acupuncture for pain relief was the most obvious.


Verum acupuncture is more effective than sham acupuncture for pain relief, improving sleep quality, and reforming general status in FMS posttreatment. However, evidence that it reduces fatigue was not found.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this manuscript.

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