Fibromyalgia and Acupuncture

By Christina Morris, L.Ac.

Fibromyalgia is a pain syndrome that affects approximately 5 to 6 million people in the United States. This condition is more common in women between the ages of 30 and 50. Fibromyalgia can be very frustrating for those who have it. There is no test that confirms its diagnosis with complete certainty; instead it is often diagnosed by ruling out other diseases. People who have fibromyalgia often experience chronic pain in the muscles, joints, tendons and other soft tissues. Other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia may include headaches, problems sleeping, morning stiffness, numbness in the hands and feet, depression, jaw pain, irritable bowel syndrome, PMS, irritable bladder, skin sensitivities, and dizziness. The main characteristic of this disorder are tender points. There are eighteen common tender points associated with this condition. These tender points are located around the neck, shoulders, chest, knees, elbows and hips.

Traditional Chinese medicine understands fibromyalgia as the result of an energetic disharmony in the body. Generally, people that have fibromyaliga fall into one of two categories. The first an excess condition and the second a deficient condition. Both will have the common symptom of pain but the secondary symptoms will differ. Those with an excess condition may experience sighing, irritability, insomnia and PMS. Individuals in this category may have many life stresses and emotional frustrations, as well as some degree of depression. The second condition is a deficient condition. These individuals may have severe fatigue, shortness of breath, cold limbs, may easily catch colds, and usually have an overall weak constitution.

Acupuncture can play a major role in the treatment of fibromyalgia. An acupuncturist can treat the pain and the underlying condition simultaneously. The treatments are aimed at balancing the energy in the body to reduce pain and promote overall health. According to Chinese medicine theory, pain is caused by blockages in the energy pathways of the body or “meridians”. Acupuncture helps to unblock these pathways, allowing the energy to flow freely in the meridians. Thereby nourishing the muscles, tendons, joints and other soft tissues. Clinical studies indicate that acupuncture can be a safe and effective treatment for fibromyalgia, with little to no side effects. The number of treatments needed varies from person to person, but usually several treatments can result in long lasting pain relief. Scientific research studies indicate that acupuncture releases endorphins that bind to opiate receptors decreasing pain and inflammation. Studies also show that acupuncture affects numerous neurotransmitters, increases circulation, regulates hormones, boosts the immune system and promotes healing. This ancient form of medicine has been practiced for thousands of years in the treatment of pain and other various health concerns.

Lifestyle adjustments are also important for those suffering from fibromyalgia. Moderate exercise and stretching along with proper diet, nutrition and stress reduction can ease the pains of fibromyalgia. Proper posture helps facilitate the free flow of energy throughout the body. Supplements of vitamins and herbs can also be helpful. Be sure to avoid things that can worsen this condition such as smoking, caffeine, sugar and inadequate sleep. Take charge of your health, and rid yourself of the hassles of pain.