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Acupuncture for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Acupuncture for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
A Randomized, Sham-controlled Trial With Single-blinded Design

by Siu-Man Ng, PhD; Yan-Mun Yiu, PhD
Content is courtesy of Alternative Therapies In Health & Medicine


Context: 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.

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

Design: A two-arm, randomized, controlled, single- blinded design was adopted.

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

Participants: Recruited through press publicity in Hong Kong, 127 individuals—40 men and 87 women—partici- pated 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 con- trol status. The treatment regime was 2 sessions/wk for 4 consecutive wk.

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

Results: Ninety-nine participants completed the inter- ventions, with 50 and 49 participants in the experimental group (EG) and CG respectively. Repeated measures ANOVA revealed a significant decrease in physical (F1,93 = 4.327; P = .040) and mental fatigue (F1,96 = 10.451; P = .002) and improvement in the physical component score of SF-12 (F1,93 = 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.

Conclusion: 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. (Altern Ther Health Med. 2013;19(4):21-26.)

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