Possibly From Placebo Effect, Acupuncture Improves Fatigue in Parkinson’s

Acupuncture treated hot flashes more effectively than oral medications.
Acupuncture treated hot flashes more effectively than oral medications.
The researchers observed between-group differences between real and sham acupuncture treatment.

Acupuncture may help relieve the debilitating fatigue associated with Parkinson’s disease, though the beneficial effect may be all in a patient’s head.

Researchers found that real acupuncture offered no greater benefit than sham treatments in patients with Parkinson’s-related fatigue. Still, patients noted improvements in mood, sleep, and quality of life.

Acupuncture has previously been shown to improve fatigue in other conditions. With that, Benzi M. Kluger, MD, MS, of the University of Colorado, and colleagues explored the efficacy of the holistic treatment in Parkinson’s patients.

In total, 94 patients with Parkinson’s disease who had moderate to high fatigue were randomized to receive 6 weeks of either biweekly real or sham acupuncture. The primary outcome was a change in the Modified Fatigue Impact Scale (MFIS) at 6 weeks, while secondary outcomes included sleep, mood, quality of life, and maintenance of those benefits at 12 weeks post-treatment.

At 6 and 12 week follow-up, both groups showed significant improvements in fatigue, however no between-group differences were observed (change in total MFIS from baseline to 6 weeks: real, –13.2 + 13.8; sham, –16.0 + 15.1; ANCOVA, P= 0.44). Overall, 53% of acupuncture and 64% of sham participants reported clinically significant improvements in fatigue (P= 0.34). Improvements in mood, sleep, and quality of life were also recorded, but with no between-group differences.

“These results suggest that acupuncture may improve [Parkinson’s] related fatigue, but that acupuncture likely confers benefit through placebo or other nonspecific effects,” the authors wrote. “Similar results from multiple rigorously conducted RCTs of acupuncture for other conditions suggest that specific point placement is not essential to acupuncture’s mechanism for most conditions studied to date,” they noted.


Kluger BM, Rakowski D, Christian M, et al. Randomized, Controlled Trial of Acupuncture for Fatigue in Parkinson’s Disease. Mov Disord. 2016; doi:10.1002/mds.26597.

This article originally appeared on Neurology Advisor