Exploring Relief for Fibromyalgia With Acupuncture
Fibromyalgia, from the Latin fibro (fibrous tissue), the Greek myo (muscle) and the Greek algia (pain), is a common musculoskeletal disorder. In fact, estimates vary from 3 to 5 million diagnoses per year. Although fibromyalgia is widely considered related to an arthritic condition, it is technically in the rheumatic category. This means that it impairs the soft tissue and/or joints but does not cause joint damage like arthritis does.
Often misdiagnosed and misunderstood, fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain and fatigue. It is a long-lasting condition, possibly present for a lifetime. Yet, it is not a progressive disease. Over time, many people with the condition actually improve. And although it can be debilitating, it does not cause muscle or joint damage. Moreover, it is not fatal.
Who Does Fibromyalgia Affect?
Fibromyalgia is predominantly diagnosed among women, with females comprising 80 to 90 percent of the cases. Although the disease is found in Americans ages 18 or older, most people diagnosed are middle aged.
Fibromyalgia also appears to have a strong family history and is more likely in those with other rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia can sometimes appear following medical events that cause psychological stress, such as physical trauma, infection or surgery. However, many people become symptomatic over time, with no single discernible cause or event.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Below are common symptoms of fibromyalgia:
- Pain that is widespread and defined as a constant dull ache (this is the most common symptom)
- Fatigue, which can be present even with significant amounts of sleep
- Cognitive problems, which cause an inability to focus or concentrate (often referred to as “fibro fog”)
- Decreased pain threshold and tenderness at points on the body
- Depression or anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping
Other possible symptoms include:
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities
- Morning stiffness
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Painful menstrual cramps
- Urinary pain or frequency
Treatment for Fibromyalgia
While treatment may help fibromyalgia, it cannot be cured. The effectiveness of treatment, however, can be significant. This is dependent on finding the right healthcare providers. While many physicians in such areas as family medicine, internal medicine and rheumatology can treat this disease, it is helpful to consider a team approach to care. A combined approach and expertise is important for two reasons:
- Fibromyalgia can be difficult to treat
- Not all doctors are familiar with the disease and its treatment
One study found that 91 percent of sufferers seek solace in complementary medicine such as hydrotherapy, massage and acupuncture.
Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia
One out of five people who suffer from fibromyalgia use acupuncture within the first two years of diagnosis, according to a publication of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The mechanism of acupuncture entails the manipulation of ultrathin needles in order to clearblockages of energy, which also results in the release of endorphins into the bloodstream. Endorphins, known as the body’s natural opioids, create a relief and/or tolerance to the chronic pain and discomfort in conditions, such as fibromyalgia.
There have been a number of studies regarding the impact of acupuncture on fibromyalgia and other similar conditions. They reveal that this ancient system may alter the brain’s chemistry and that doing so changes sensations, such as pain. These studies, however, have garnered mixed results—likely because the criteria for each is markedly different.
That said, a very recent article published in February 2016 on MedicalNewsToday (MNT) detailed a study conducted at the Doňa Mercedes Primary Health Centre in Seville, Spain. Whereas previous clinical trials have been inconclusive, this study was constructed differently, using criteria tailored to the fibromyalgia patient’s specific acupuncture needs.
The authors of the report, published in Acupuncture in Medicine, a BMJ journal (formerly the British Medical Journal), stated that there was improvement in the participants’ conditions. They claim that the outcome was unique since it had not been reported in previous studies using such specific criteria.The authors were also quick to emphasize, however, that while this is the first time that such a specific positive result was found regarding acupuncture for fibromyalgia patients, additional and larger such studies would be necessary for more conclusive proof and recommendations.
At Spinal Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, we are experts in assessing patients with relevant conditions and administering acupuncture treatments when necessary. We offer a fully integrated approach to care. Our specialists, with years of combined experience, collaborate together in order to provide high-quality, customizable care using techniques from acupuncture, physical therapy, massage therapy and chiropractic manipulation.
Explore acupuncture for fibromyalgia and other conditions. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.