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Funded Studies

Acupuncture as a Symptoms & Side Effects Treatment for Fatigue in Parkinson's Disease

Fatigue affects approximately half of all Parkinson’s disease patients and has a major impact on quality of life and disability. Unfortunately, Parkinson’s medications do not reliably improve fatigue and there are currently no proven treatments specifically for this symptom. There is some evidence that acupuncture may improve fatigue in other patient populations. The goal of this study is to determine if acupuncture may be helpful for fatigue in Parkinson’s disease. 

Project Description:
To test the effects of acupuncture on fatigue in Parkinson’s disease we will randomly assign Parkinson’s disease patients to either receive real or placebo acupuncture twice a week for six weeks. We will measure patients’ fatigue and other measures of quality of life and disease status prior to starting acupuncture, half-way through treatment, at the completion of treatment and six weeks following their last treatment. We are interested to examine whether patients receiving either real or placebo acupuncture had improvements in their fatigue and whether there are differences between these two groups. We are also interested to see if acupuncture has any benefits on quality of life or other Parkinson’s symptoms. 

Relevance to Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease:
Although a large number of patients with Parkinson’s disease use alternative treatments such as acupuncture, there is little data to help guide patients and their physicians. This study will improve our knowledge of how acupuncture works in Parkinson’s disease. It may additionally provide evidence for the use of acupuncture as a Symptoms & Side Effects treatment for fatigue. Given the lack of proven treatments for fatigue and the potential for medications to cause side effects this would be of great benefit to a large number of patients.  

Anticipated Outcome
We anticipate that both real and placebo acupuncture patients will show improvements in fatigue but that real acupuncture will be superior to placebo. We also anticipate that real acupuncture will improve patients’ quality of life and be well-tolerated with minimal side effects or complications.

Final Outcome

Ninety-four people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and moderate to severe fatigue completed our trial of acupuncture. We have completed analysis of the data and are in the process of completing and submitting four related manuscripts: 1) Main results of the randomized controlled trial (real acupuncture significantly improved fatigue but was not different from placebo); 2) Predictors of placebo response (disability and extraversion were strong predictors of clinical response); 3) Detailed description of methods for our protocol; and 4) Predictors of fatigue severity (from baseline data). We have published one manuscript (below) based on validation of our placebo acupuncture method.

Presentations & Publications
Dilli CR, Childs R, Berk J, Christian MK, Nguyen N, Brown RP, Kluger BM. Does prior acupuncture exposure affect perception of blinded real or sham acupuncture? Acupunct Med. 2014 Apr;32(2):155-9. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2013-010449. Epub 2013 Nov 28.

January 2014


  • Benzi Michael Kluger, MD and MS

    Aurora, CO United States

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