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Acupuncture Treatment for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a severe pain condition that affects millions of people all around the world. Fibromyalgia is a persistent disease characterized by increased sensitivity of the pain system, resulting in amplified sensation of pain. Studies have revealed connections between fibromyalgia and other factors such as inflammation, immunity, hormones, genetics, and psychological well-being in recent years. While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, treatments may help to alleviate symptoms. Simple fibromyalgia can be treated with education regarding the problem, an exercise regimen, and stress management advice. Management, on the other hand, must be adaptable and comprehensive, and it may include mental relaxation therapies, physical treatments, cognitive behavioral therapy, and pain relieving drugs. Acupuncture is another popular choice for people who have fibromyalgia. And acupuncture as one of the treatments that has been shown to be safe and effective for reducing pain and improving quality of life for those with fibromyalgia.

Acupuncture is based on the concept that the body contains energy pathways, or meridians, that run throughout it. These energy channels are linked to various organs and systems, and when they become blocked or misaligned, they might cause illness. Acupuncturists think that inserting needles in specific locations along these energy pathways will unblock the flow of energy and restore balance to the body.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a disease characterized by persistent and widespread musculoskeletal pain, often accompanied with other symptoms such as tiredness, digestive issues, and changes in sleep and mood. Even though fibromyalgia doesn't affect a large population, it is still an enigma to the medical field. It's the third most common musculoskeletal condition, and its likelihood occurs more frequently with age. Several individualized factors contribute to the development of fibromyalgia, such as: genetic disposition, personal experiences, emotional and cognitive determining factors, mind-body relationship and a biopsychological way of handling stress. It is accepted that fibromyalgia is caused by central sensitization -where neuro-circuits aren't working correctly-, making it difficult to perceive or process pain signals. The most common symptom is pain at the locomotor system level.

If a patient describes having pain regularly for at least three months, and this pain is present in 11 out of 18 tender points, a rheumatologist will usually diagnose them with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia does not cause any damage to organs, and several newer diagnostic approaches have been designed lately that consider genetic, epigenetic and serological biomarkers. In many cases, the person experiences symptoms soon after physical or emotional trauma. But there are also occasions where it seems like there was no clear trigger whatsoever.

Women are more likely to develop this disease than men, however the standard medical treatments for it only help with treating symptom relief and not the cause. Integrative therapies, like aerobic exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy, are evidence-based and recommended for managing fibromyalgia symptoms. Drug therapy is not always necessary since only a small number of patients respond well to medication. Other ways to manage fibromyalgia include acupuncture treatments.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a holistic approach to medicine that has been used for over 2000 years in China. It is based on the belief that there is an energy force or “qi” flowing through our bodies and when this flow becomes blocked, it leads to illness. Acupuncture is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into specific points along the body's meridians to unblock qi and allow the body to heal itself. It is most commonly used to treat pain, but it is also increasingly being used for overall wellness, including stress management.

Western science, on the other hand, has identified acupuncture points as specific places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. Some theorize that this stimulation increases the body's production of natural pain relievers. It is believed that acupuncture corrects neuroendocrine dysfunctions by stimulating endorphins in the midbrain. Endorphins have various effects on the neuroendocrine system, like reducing pain and increasing a sense of well-being. From this small study, it appears that some patients respond very quickly to acupuncture treatment. Half of the subjects reported sleeping better and feeling an improvement in symptoms within the first month after starting acupuncture therapy.

Likely, a combination of Western and traditional Chinese medicine provides these patients the best possible therapy.

How Safe is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a safe therapy. Acupuncture has fewer adverse effects than most medicines used to treat fibromyalgia, such pain relievers. The minor side effects that do occur are tolerable. When needles are inserted into your skin, they may cause discomfort or pain, although if this happens, it will not last long. Nausea and vomiting are occasionally accompanied by headaches, but the problems usually pass after a day or two.

The equipment is regulated by the FDA, and practitioners must only use one needle at a time. Clean needles help to prevent more severe negative effects like HIV or hepatitis B infection. You should be able to observe your acupuncturist removing each individually packaged needle from the sterile packet.

Acupuncture is not a magic cure-all, but it can be helpful in managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia. If you are considering acupuncture treatment, be sure to consult with a licensed practitioner to ensure that you are getting the most effective and safe care possible.

Acupuncture as a Treatment for Fibromyalgia

Acupuncture has been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for ages. It is regarded as a successful treatment for various types of pain, including migraines and chronic musculoskeletal discomfort, based on evidence. There are only a few studies looking at acupuncture as a treatment for fibromyalgia, and the findings have been favorable. One study found that acupuncture was able to significantly reduce pain and fatigue in women with fibromyalgia. Another study found that acupuncture plus moxibustion (a Chinese herbal therapy) was more effective at reducing fibromyalgia symptoms than acupuncture alone.

In another recent study, it was shown that ten weeks after receiving acupuncture treatment, patients’ pain scores on average 41 percent. This is compared with an average drop of 27 percent for those given a simulated acupuncture treatment and the benefits were still seen after a year. Another study conducted using fMRI shows that acupuncture can actually affect the brain structures responsible for pain. Acupuncture may be used to help the nervous system relax and reduce pain signals sent to the brain. Another study in 2018 found that acupuncture causes modifications in levels of two neurotransmitters, serotonin and substance P. Serotonin levels decreased, a brain chemical responsible for processing pain, sensitivity to cold, mood, sex drive, and digestion. Patients with fibromyalgia treated with acupuncture showed an increase in substance P. Substance P is a neurotransmitter involved with pain threshold and sensitivity. Acupuncture stimulates the release of your body's own pain killer, endorphins, and relaxes your brain. It can also improve blood circulation, which in turn enhances oxygenation of tissues.

Clinical trials studying acupuncture in fibromyalgia also have shown improvement in pain, quality of sleep, and quality of life, though further research is needed to confirm these results.

Although limited, high-quality research suggests that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for fibromyalgia when combined with education, lifestyle counseling, relaxation training, and some cognitive therapy. It is relatively safe with few, brief side effects if done correctly.

Things to consider before getting an acupuncture

Acupuncture has few health risks as long as a qualified, certified acupuncturist uses clean needles. Before receiving acupuncture treatment, tell the practitioner if you have any of the following conditions: a bleeding disorder, has a pacemaker or is pregnant. If you have a bleeding problem or are taking blood thinners, your chances of suffering from bleeding or bruising may be higher. While on the other hand, applying electrical pulses to acupuncture needles might disrupt how a pacemaker works. And acupuncture has been shown to stimulate labor, which means it could lead to an early delivery.

Acupuncture is an alternative or integrative medicine that has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions for centuries. Acupuncture has long been used as a holistic approach to healing. Being one of the oldest and most popular forms of alternative medicine, it is believed that if done correctly, it can promote balance and harmony within the body's energy systems. In the United States, acupuncture is most commonly used to relieve pain. It's also used to treat nausea and vomiting, particularly after surgery or chemotherapy. Some people use acupuncture to quit smoking or lose weight. There's even evidence that acupuncture can help reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, two conditions that often cause widespread pain and fatigue.

If you are thinking about acupuncture to relieve your fibromyalgia, only visit a licensed acupuncturist who has experience in treating this condition. While acupuncture is typically safe when done by a professional, as with any treatment there is always a chance of side effects. However, don't let that stop you from getting the care and treatment you need and deserve in order to live your life to the fullest potential. Talk to your doctor about acupuncture and whether it may be right for you.

Have you tried acupuncture for fibromyalgia? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below.