A nationwide study in Taiwan of patients with fibromyalgia found that those treated with acupuncture had a lower incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD).
The study, “Acupuncture decreased the risk of coronary heart disease in patients with fibromyalgia in Taiwan: a nationwide matched cohort study,” was published in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy.
Fibromyalgia is often accompanied by comorbidities, or unrelated conditions, including CHD. Previous studies found that fibromyalgia patients in Taiwan have a 47% higher risk of developing CHD than the general population.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved several therapies to treat fibromyalgia. Non-pharmacological treatments include acupuncture, massage, and exercise. Acupuncture has already been shown to be beneficial in animal studies and clinical trials, but there have been no previous studies on acupuncture’s effect on CHD in fibromyalgia.
A research team used data from the Taiwanese National Health Insurance Research Database, which collects health data for the country’s entire population. The National Health Insurance program reimburses the costs of traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and herbal medicine, along with conventional medical care.
A total of 58,899 patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia between Jan. 1, 2000, and Dec. 31, 2010, were identified from a random sample of 1 million people. Fibromyalgia patients who received acupuncture treatment were matched with patients who did not receive acupuncture. The two groups were similar in sex, age, comorbidities, and drugs used. Both groups had more women than men, and the dominant age range was 40–59.
Researchers found that 8,133 patients in the non-acupuncture group developed CHD, compared to only 4,389 patients in the acupuncture group, suggesting that the cumulative incidence of CHD was significantly lower in the acupuncture group. This beneficial effect of acupuncture on CHD incidence in fibromyalgia patients was reported to be independent of sex, age, comorbidities, and statins used. Statins are drugs that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
“Our study revealed that regardless of whether patients with fibromyalgia took statins, acupuncture lowered the risk of CHD,” the authors wrote. “Our present study confirms that acupuncture reduced the risk of CHD in patients with fibromyalgia in Taiwan. This noteworthy finding can provide some hints for further clinical and mechanistic studies.”
According to the team, many reasons may explain why acupuncture prevents CHD in patients with fibromyalgia. The technique may interfere with the deregulated central sensitization system in patients. It also could have an anti-inflammatory effect, ease depression, and improve sleep quality, which reduce the risk of CHD. Or, it could enhance cardiac function. Further studies are needed to better understand the link between acupuncture and CHD risk.