Fatigue influences daily activities of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and reduces their quality of life. Most clinical trials evaluating interventions for fatigue in MS have shown only minor benefits. So researchers have conducted a study to evaluate whether acupuncture and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in addition to usual care are effective in reducing fatigue in MS patients compared to usual care alone.
The researchers conducted a single-centre, randomised, three-arm, controlled trial in a specialised MS university study centre.
104 outpatients with MS who have had fatigue for at least three months and an average score of more than or equal to four on the Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS) were randomly allocated to three groups; 42 acupuncture, 21 MBSR and 41 usual care.
Acupuncture patients received 24 treatments within 12 weeks in addition to usual care and the usual care group continued any previous treatment. The MBSR group received 8 weeks of MBSR treatment and one supplemental workshop within 12 weeks in addition to usual care, but because of recruitment difficulties recruitment for MBSR was stopped early and only acupuncture vs. usual care was analysed in the primary analysis.
After 12 weeks, fatigue in the acupuncture group was measured using the FSS score (values 1-7, with higher values indicating more fatigue) at 4.7 and 5.4 in the usual care group. With an odds ratio of 6.4 the chance to be a responder after 12 weeks was substantially higher in the acupuncture group than in the usual care group. Only few patients in the acupuncture group suffered non-severe adverse events associated with the intervention, such as bruising or headache.
The researchers concluded that “acupuncture in addition to usual care was statistically significant, superior to usual care alone and well tolerated.” As a result they said, “Acupuncture might be beneficial for MS patients with fatigue, particularly with regard to limited treatment options for these symptoms, but more research is needed.”
Download our Choices Fatigue leaflet.