Fibromyalgia is a common chronic syndrome affecting women more than men. It is characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbance. Other symptoms may include cognitive difficulties known as 'fibro fog' (difficulty in paying attention or concentrating on mental tasks), headaches, paresthesia (tingling, numbness, chilling or burning skin sensations).
Fibromyalgia is believed to be a neurobiological disorder that is referred to as central sensitivity syndrome. It means that pain sensations felt in fibromyalgia are likely due to hypersensitivity of the central nervous system and the way it processes pain.
Can acupuncture help?
A consensus statement from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded that acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or may be an acceptable alternative treatment in comprehensive management program for fibromyalgia.
Recently, even BlueCross BlueShield, a major health insurance company, dropped opioids for the management of chronic pain, and is adding acupuncture as an alternative.
This shows that acupuncture is well recognized within Western medical institutions as a valuable option in treating chronic pain.
From the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, the diagnosis will be made based on the symptoms that the patient presents. If, for instance, one patient may suffer from chronic pain with the tingling and burning sensations in the skin, they will get different diagnosis and treatment, than the patient who suffers from chronic pain and cognitive difficulties. The TCM practitioner will also treat the root of the problem as well as the symptoms. In addition to acupuncture, the treatment may include herbs, moxibuction, cupping, and lifestyle modifications such as changes in diet and exercise.
The treatment usually lasts 6-12 weeks, depending on the severity of the condition and on the individual's response to the treatment.
A randomized controlled trial with fibromyalgia patients published in Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine showed that acupuncture was beneficial for pain and quality of life 3 months after the end of the treatment with some improvements lasting one year after the treatments.
This study evaluated acupuncture treatments alone. It did not include other forms of TCM treatments that may be included in your acupuncturist's clinic (mentioned above: herbs, exercise, dietary changes..), that may contribute to even more lasting improvements.
Targino, R., Imamura, M., Kaziyama, H., Souza, L., Hsing, W., Furlan, A., . . . Neto, R. A. (2008). A randomized controlled trial of acupuncture added to usual treatment for fibromyalgia. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 40(7), 582-588. doi:10.2340/16501977-0216