Fibromyalgia syndrome is a chronic health condition that causes pain in muscle and bone at multiple sites in the body, often accompanied by fatigue, sleep disturbance, brain fog and other issues. Since fibromyalgia symptoms overlap with other health conditions, it can be difficult to understand and diagnose. Symptoms can range in severity and nature, often coming and going over time. The exact causes of fibromyalgia remain unknown, but it may be that the brain and nerves misinterpret or overreact to normal pain signals. There is no cure for fibromyalgia, and treatment focuses on keeping symptoms in remission. People with fibromyalgia have sought alternative therapies, including acupuncture, to find lasting relief from these painful symptoms. Let’s look at how fibromyalgia symptoms are typically addressed and how acupuncture treatment sessions may offer patients the relief they seek.
Common Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Historically, fibromyalgia has been misunderstood and misdiagnosed by Western medicine practitioners. Symptoms (including dull aches, musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, headaches, anxiety, brain fog, and depression) are similar to symptoms of autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis. Some researchers debate that fibromyalgia may be an autoimmune condition, but the evidence is incomplete. While fibromyalgia’s origins remain uncertain, researchers have identified several risk factors that may increase a person’s chances of developing symptoms. Elevated stress levels, injuries, and infection may trigger fibromyalgia or provoke a flare of symptoms. Middle-aged women are most vulnerable to fibromyalgia, as are those with a family history of the condition.
Western Approaches to Treating Fibromyalgia
As there is no cure for fibromyalgia, medical professionals focus on managing pain and improving quality of life. Antidepressants (duloxetine or milnacipran HCL), antiseizure drugs (gabapentin, pregabalin), and other pain relievers may offer temporary relief for fibromyalgia patients, but they can carry unpleasant side effects. Doctors also recommend that patients participate in physical therapy, yoga, massage therapy, and other forms of self-care. The potential benefits of natural approaches, including acupuncture therapy for fibromyalgia patients, are gradually being recognized.
How Acupuncture Can Relieve Fibromyalgia Symptoms
A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis of twelve randomized controlled trials compared acupuncture to conventional medication, and to “sham” acupuncture as a control. The review concluded that “real” acupuncture was more effective for relieving fibromyalgia pain than either “sham” acupuncture or conventional medications, in both the short and long term. While more research is desirable, acupuncture is a very safe therapy, and there is some evidence it may help with fibromyalgia symptoms.
Acupuncture stimulates blood flow in the skin and muscles of fibromyalgia patients, leading to reduced feelings of pain and fatigue. Research suggests that acupuncture has analgesic effects through the regulation of various central nervous system pathways, and may stimulate the release of endorphins and other compounds that help reduce hypersensitivity to pain. Even a few acupuncture treatment sessions may allow patients to feel more energized and relaxed, and these effects often last for a considerable amount of time after treatment.
Call Inner Works Acupuncture today at (503) 227-2127 to schedule an appointment with a Portland acupuncturist who offers customized acupuncture treatment plans to suit your needs.