• Acupuncture;
  • Blood flow;
  • Fibromyalgia;
  • Hyperexcitability;
  • Non-invasive


Acupuncture has become a widely used treatment modality in various musculoskeletal pain conditions. Acupuncture is also shown to enhance blood flow and recovery in surgical flaps. The mechanisms behind the effect on blood flow were suggested to rely on vasoactive substances, such as calcitonin gene-related peptide, released from nociceptors by the needle stimulation. In a previous study on healthy subjects, one needle stimulation into the anterior tibial muscle was shown to increase both skin and muscle blood flow. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of needle stimulation on local blood flow in the anterior tibial muscle and overlying skin in patients suffering from a widespread chronic pain condition. Fifteen patients with fibromyalgia (FM) participated in the study. Two modes of needling, deep muscle stimulation and subcutaneous needle insertion were performed at the upper anterior aspect of the tibia, i.e., in an area without focal pathology or ongoing pain in these patients. Blood flow changes were assessed non-invasively by photoplethysmography (PPG). The results of the present study were partly similar to those earlier found at a corresponding site in healthy female subjects, i.e., deep muscle stimulation resulted in larger increase in skin blood flow (mean (SE)): 62.4% (13.0) and muscle blood flow: 93.1% (18.6), compared to baseline, than did subcutaneous insertion (mean (SE) skin blood flow increase: 26.4% (6.2); muscle blood flow increase: 46.1% (10.2)). However, in FM patients subcutaneous needle insertion was followed by a significant increase in both skin and muscle blood flow, in contrast to findings in healthy subjects where no significant blood flow increase was found following the subcutaneous needling. The different results of subcutaneous needling between the groups (skin blood flow: p=0.008; muscle blood flow: p=0.027) may be related to a greater sensitivity to pain and other somatosensory input in FM.