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National Institutes of Health • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

NCCAM Clinical Digest

Fibromyalgia and CAM :
What the Science Says

June 2011
Woman rubs shoulder in pain

According to reviewers who have assessed the research on CAM and fibromyalgia, much of the research is still preliminary, and evidence of effectiveness for the various therapies used is limited.


Research on acupuncture—stimulation of anatomical points with thin metallic needles—for fibromyalgia has produced mixed results. One review article notes that three studies found some evidence to support the use of electroacupuncture (in which the needles are pulsed with electric current). However, the effects of electroacupuncture in these studies were mostly short lived, and two studies of traditional acupuncture had negative results.

Tai Chi

Research has shown that tai chi—a mind-body practice originating in China that involves moving the body slowly, gently, and with awareness—may provide a benefit to patients with fibromyalgia. A 2010 NCCAM-funded study compared the effects of a tai chi program with a wellness education and stretching program for the management of fibromyalgia over a 12-week period. Using the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire score to measure improvements, the researchers monitored certain categories such as intensity of pain, physical function, stiffness, and fatigue.The researchers found that the participants in the tai chi group had significant improvements in pain, sleep quality, depression, and quality of life and maintained these benefits for up to 24 weeks. They concluded that larger, long-term studies are needed in order to assess the use of tai chi for fibromyalgia.


A review of the research on massage for fibromyalgia notes only modest, preliminary support. Two studies had some positive findings, but two others found either no benefits or only short-term improvements.

Dietary Supplements

Some researchers believe that low levels of magnesium may contribute to fibromyalgia. However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that magnesium supplements relieve fibromyalgia symptoms. Two small studies had conflicting results.

Supplements containing the amino acid derivative SAMe are used for a variety of conditions. Although several small studies of SAMe for fibromyalgia have had mixed results, there is some evidence of a benefit. Reviewers conclude that more research is needed.

Other CAM Approaches

According to reviewers, research evidence is insufficient to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of other CAM treatments—biofeedback, chiropractic care, hypnosis, and magnet therapy—used for fibromyalgia.


NCCAM Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NIH, DHHS. NCCAM Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on CAM, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCAM-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, training CAM researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCAM's Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCAM Web site at NCCAM is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.



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