Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia

acupuncture for fibromyalgia
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For help in treating fibromyalgia, many people turn to the alternative therapy known as acupuncture. It's thought that undergoing acupuncture can help alleviate symptoms such as widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue. In addition, acupuncture is said to improve mood and improve daily functioning for people living with fibromyalgia.

It's estimated that one in five fibromyalgia sufferers use acupuncture treatment within two years of diagnosis.

Why Is Acupuncture Used For Fibromyalgia?

Although fibromyalgia is a relatively common musculoskeletal disorder, an effective treatment plan for this condition has yet to be established. Some medical experts suggest that the best approach to fibromyalgia treatment may involve a combination of pharmacological treatments (such as use of antidepressant and pain-relieving medications) and non-pharmacological approaches (such as acupuncture and other alternative therapies).

Proponents of alternative medicine state that undergoing acupuncture can help reduce pain sensitivity in fibromyalgia patients and, in turn, improve their quality of life. Indeed, emerging evidence suggests that acupuncture may help control chronic pain, possibly by stimulating the release of pain-relieving chemicals found naturally in your body.

According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture may help reduce pain by freeing up blockages in your body's flow of vital energy (also known as "chi").

In order to remove these blockages, acupuncture practitioners insert needles into specific points said to be connected to energy pathways called "meridians."

The Science Behind Acupuncture and Fibromyalgia

For a report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2013, researchers analyzed nine previously published trials (with a total of 395 participants) testing the use of acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia.

Noting that most of the studies had considerable flaws in their design, the report's authors found "low- to moderate-level evidence that compared with no treatment and standard therapy, acupuncture improves pain and stiffness in people with fibromyalgia."

The available clinical trials on acupuncture's potential benefits as a fibromyalgia treatment include a small study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2006. For the study, 50 patients with fibromyalgia were split into two groups: one group received six treatments of acupuncture over the course of two to three weeks, while the second group received six treatments of simulated acupuncture (in which practitioners did not focus on points believed to be connected to the body's energy pathways).

In their analysis of data gathered on study participants immediately after treatment (as well as at one month and seven months after treatment), researchers found that those who received acupuncture experienced significantly greater improvements in total fibromyalgia symptoms (compared to those who received simulated acupuncture).

While fatigue and anxiety were found to be the most significantly improved symptoms during the follow-up period, activity and physical function levels did not change.

Caveats

Although acupuncture is generally considered safe when administered by a qualified practitioner, it's not appropriate for everyone. Talk to your doctor for help in finding a qualified practitioner and incorporating acupuncture into your fibromyalgia management plan.

Alternatives to Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia Relief

Certain lifestyle practices are considered essential for managing fibromyalgia symptoms. These include getting enough sleep (which may lessen fibromyalgia-associated pain and fatigue), working out regularly (including walking and other gentle forms of exercise), and following a balanced diet.

There's some evidence that alternative therapies like massage therapy and chiropractic may also benefit people with fibromyalgia. Practicing mind-body techniques like yoga may be helpful as well.

Some research suggests that dietary supplements like S-adenosylmethionine and 5-hydroxytryptophan may provide relief of pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms. If you're considering the use of dietary supplements in treatment of fibromyalgia, make sure to consult your physician prior to starting your supplement regimen.

Beyond Fibromyalgia: More Benefits of Acupuncture

Acupuncture may help treat many pain-related conditions apart from fibromyalgia, including arthritis, back pain, and migraines.

Sources

Deare JC1, Zheng Z, Xue CC, Liu JP, Shang J, Scott SW, Littlejohn G. "Acupuncture for treating fibromyalgia." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 May 31;5:CD007070.

Harris RE1, Tian X, Williams DA, Tian TX, Cupps TR, Petzke F, Groner KH, Biswas P, Gracely RH, Clauw DJ. "Treatment of fibromyalgia with formula acupuncture: investigation of needle placement, needle stimulation, and treatment frequency." J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Aug;11(4):663-71.

Martin DP1, Sletten CD, Williams BA, Berger IH. "Improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms with acupuncture: results of a randomized controlled trial." Mayo Clin Proc. 2006 Jun;81(6):749-57.

Singh BB1, Wu WS, Hwang SH, Khorsan R, Der-Martirosian C, Vinjamury SP, Wang CN, Lin SY. "Effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia." Altern Ther Health Med. 2006 Mar-Apr;12(2):34-41.

Targino RA1, Imamura M, Kaziyama HH, Souza LP, Hsing WT, Furlan AD, Imamura ST, Azevedo Neto RS. "A randomized controlled trial of acupuncture added to usual treatment for fibromyalgia." J Rehabil Med. 2008 Jul;40(7):582-8.

Yang B, Yi G, Hong W, Bo C, Wang Z, Liu Y, Xue Z, Li Y. "Efficacy of acupuncture on fibromyalgia syndrome: a meta-analysis." J Tradit Chin Med. 2014 Aug;34(4):381-91.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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