Complementary and alternative medicine in the treatment of pain in fibromyalgia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials

Authors: Terhorst L (1) , Schneider MJ (2) , Kim KH (3) , Goozdich LM (4) , Stilley CS (1)
(1) University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing (2) University of Pittsburgh School of Rehabilitation Sciences (3) University of Pittsburgh School of Education (4) National Pike Chiropractic
Source: J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2011 Sep;34(7):483-96
DOI: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2011.05.006 Publication date: 2011 Sep E-Publication date: June 24, 2011 Availability: abstract Copyright: © 2011 National University of Health Sciences. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.
Language: English Countries: Not specified Location: Not specified Correspondence address: Lauren Terhorst, PhD, 3500 Victoria St, Rm 360, Pittsburgh, PA 15261. Email :


Article abstract


The purpose of this study was to systematically review the literature for randomized trials of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) interventions for fibromyalgia (FM).


A comprehensive literature search was conducted. Databases included the Cochrane library, PubMed, PsycINFO, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health, Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Manual, Alternative and Natural Therapy Index System (MANTIS), Index for Chiropractic Literature, and Allied and Complementary Medicine (AMED). Inclusion criteria were (a) subjects were diagnosed with fibromyalgia and (b) the study design was a randomized controlled trial that compared a CAM therapy vs a control group. Studies were subgrouped by CAM treatment into 11 categories. Evidence tables and forest plots were organized to display quality ratings and effect sizes of each study.


The literature search yielded 1,722 results; 102 abstracts were selected as potential articles for inclusion. Sixty studies met criteria and were rated by 2 reviewers; 18 were rated as good quality; 20, moderate; 18, low; and 4, very low. Synthesis of information for CAM categories represented by more than 5 studies revealed that balneotherapy and mind-body therapies were effective in treating FM pain. This study analyzed recent studies and focused exclusively on randomized controlled trials. Despite common use of manual therapies such as massage and manipulation to treat patients with FM, there is a paucity of quality clinical trials investigating these particular CAM categories.


Most of these studies identified were preliminary or pilot studies, thus had small sample sizes and were likely underpowered. Two CAM categories showed the most promising findings, balneotherapy and mind-body therapies. Most of the other CAM categories showed a trend favoring the treatment group. It appears that several CAM therapies show some preliminary treatment effect for FM pain, but larger trials that are more adequately powered are needed.

Find it online