Pain intensity for fibromyalgia patients showed 41pc drop with acupuncture and the benefits were still being felt a year later.
Fibromyalgia affects one in 20 people who suffer chronic widespread pain, fatigue and disordered sleep.
Nine in 10 of these people try some form of complementary therapy.
The latest study has found that nine weekly sessions of individually tailored acupuncture cut the pain intensity, improved function and quality of life.
The sessions lasted 20 minutes and the participants continued to take whatever painkillers and anti-depressants they had been prescribed to alleviate symptoms.
After 10 weeks the pain intensity was lower among those receiving the acupuncture – it had dropped by an average of 41pc.
Significant differences persisted after a year with an average 20pc fall in the pain score among those treated.
The number of tender points along with fatigue, anxiety and depression also dropped after the treatment.
Side effects were few and mild, prompting the researchers to suggest that tailored acupuncture may be a viable treatment for fibromyalgia.
“This treatment produced an improvement in the participants’ condition, reflected by a reduction in pain intensity and enhanced functional capacity and quality of life after the intervention and during the follow up period,” they write.
“Such an outcome has not been reported by previous studies following the application of standardised treatments: therefore, our results suggest that applying individualised treatment algorithms when starting a course of acupuncture may be important,” they conclude.
The study is published in the BMJ.